Health Minister Lord Bethell was sacked in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet shake-up after a series of Covid controversies
Image: Justin Ng / Avalon)
A Tory peer who came under fire over use of his private email for Covid business has left the Government.
Health Minister Lord Bethell, an ally of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, was axed as part of Boris Johnson’s sweeping Cabinet reshuffle this week.
He had faced calls to resign when claims emerged that he had used his personal email account rather than official channels during the pandemic.
Ministers are supposed to conduct business through their official emails so their actions can be scrutinised and civil servants can keep records.
The UK’s data watchdog has launched a probe into claims that Mr Hancock and Lord Bethell routinely used private email accounts at the height of the pandemic, when Covid contracts were being handed out to private firms.
Lord Bethell also faced a separate investigation by the Lords Standards Commissioner for sponsoring a parliamentary pass for Gina Coladangelo, Mr Hancock’s lover.
Mr Hancock resigned in the summer after footage emerged of him in a clinch with Ms Coladangelo in his Whitehall office.
Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham launched an investigation into claims about the use of personal emails at DHSC in July.
She said at the time: “It concerns the public to feel there may be a loss of transparency about decisions affecting them and their loved ones.
“And as the regulator of data protection and freedom of information laws, it concerns me.”
Labour had demanded more details after it emerged Lord Bethell had recently replaced his mobile phone and that data on the old one may no longer be retrievable.
In a letter to the Good Law Project – which is engaged in legal action against the DHSC over the award of Covid-19 contracts – Government lawyers previously said the old phone had been “broken” six months ago and that data held on it was not contained on the replacement.
The lost information was reported to have included WhatsApp and SMS messages.
No10 has previously admitted that Lord Bethell used a personal email address but said this was allowed within the rules.
The Tory peer has insisted he has done nothing wrong and he sought to abide by the ministerial code in “everything I do”.
He tweeted on Friday: “Sad to be standing down but I want to thank Boris Johnson for the opportunity to serve my country during this awful pandemic.
“It’s been a privilege to work with wonderful colleagues in dhscgovuk (and healthcare generally) during these times.”
His departure came as part of the Prime Minister’s brutal Cabinet reshuffle, which saw bungling Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ousted and a demotion to the Ministry of Justice for ex-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Lord Bethell was appointed as a parliamentary under secretary of state in the Lords for DHSC in March last year.
He previously served as government whip from July 2019 to March 2020.