The prime minister “risks jeopardising vital public health measures” by clinging onto the health secretary, the Scottish National Party has said.
SNP’s statement comes as pressure is mounting for Matt Hancock to resign after being caught kissing his department aide, in breach of social distancing rules.
But Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said on Friday the prime minister had accepted Hancock’s apology for breaching coronavirus lockdown restrictions and “considers the matter closed.”
Photos and a video were published by The Sun yesterday, showing Hancock in an embrace with Gina Coladangelo.
‘Brushed under the carpet’
In response, the SNP said what happened cannot “simply be brushed under the carpet” and warned there are “very serious questions” for Hancock.
SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald said: “Boris Johnson risks jeopardising the vital public health measures in place the longer he desperately clings on to his shamed Health Secretary – just like he did with Dominic Cummings.
“The Prime Minister must at long last do the right thing and put his responsibilities to public health first.
“There must be public confidence in those setting the rules and it cannot be the case that it is one rule for the Tory elite and another for the rest of us.
Matter ‘not closed’
“Despite declaring the matter closed, the reality is that it is anything but closed.
“There are very serious questions for Matt Hancock to answer over the appointment of his aide to the lucrative position, as well as questions over whether or not Hancock broke the ministerial code.
“This cannot simply be brushed under the carpet.
“The Prime Minister must remove the Health Secretary from his position immediately, and there must be a full independent public inquiry into Tory sleaze and cronyism without any further delay.”
In a statement, Hancock has previously said: “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances, I have let people down and am very sorry.
“I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”
UK public thinks Hancock should go
Among UK adults, 58 per cent think Hancock should resign, and only 25 per cent don’t think he should, based on a poll by Savanta ComRes.
And a group which represents those who lost loved ones because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice, also called for Hancock to go.
The group wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson, urging him to sack Hancock from his role.
Hancock has been accused of “Tory Hypocrisy” for criticising Sage government adviser Professor Neil Ferguson over breaching lockdown last year to have an affair.
In May 2020, the health secretary claimed Professor Ferguson had an “extraordinary” behaviour which left him “speechless”.
He told Sky News: “I think that he took the right decision to resign.”
And he added he could not bring himself to keep Ferguson in his job: “That’s just not possible in these circumstances.”
Hancock insisted last year that “social distancing rules are there for everyone, they are incredibly important and they are deadly serious.”
He told Sky News: “The reason is that they are the means by which we manage to get a control of this virus.”
And asked if he thought Ferguson should be prosecuted, he told the channel “you can imagine what my views are”.