Cabinet ministers should not have security cameras in their offices, the new health secretary has said, after his predecessor was forced to quit when CCTV footage showed him breaking Covid rules by kissing an aide and paid adviser.
Speaking on his second day in the job since taking over from Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid confirmed the recording device in his new office had been disabled.
Some Tory MPs have been livid at the revelation a CCTV camera was recording movements in what they say is a private space where confidential meetings should be able to be conducted.
Javid said it was “common sense” there should be no cameras in ministers’ offices and that he had never experienced the practice in his previous jobs, including as chancellor and home secretary.
“I’m not sure why there was one here,” he said, ahead of a statement in parliament this afternoon where he is expected to confirm the final stage of Covid restrictions will not be lifted next Monday but on 19 July instead.
Javid said the easing next month would be “irreversible” and that “there’s no going back” – a marked departure from his disgraced predecessor, who is facing further scrutiny over whether his affair began with his university friend Gina Coladangelo before she was appointed as an adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care with a salary of up to £15,000.
Earlier, the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, said he did not think he had any security cameras installed in his office.
Buckland: ministerial offices should be swept for hidden cameras – video
“I’m sure that many of my colleagues will be asking the same question and making sure that the offices are swept, just in case there are unauthorised devices in there that could be a national security breach,” he told Sky News.
A review into where security cameras are placed in DHSC began over the weekend.
Further questions have also been raised about security in Whitehall after it was reported Hancock and another health minister, James Bethell, used personal email accounts to deal with government business – potentially meaning they could bypass disclosure rules.
Buckland said: “If other emails were used perhaps in an emergency or in a rush, then there should be a way of collecting that information. I think it’s much simpler to just use the government system, and then everybody knows where the data is stored. I think it’s really important not just from a historical point of view but from a public accountability point of view that all data appropriately disclosable is available, and that’s why I think it’s wise to use government systems.”
A DHSC spokesperson said all ministers “understand the rules around personal email usage and only conduct government business through their departmental email addresses”.
The deputy Labour leader, Angela Rayner, has called for a full investigation into Hancock’s email use.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’ve written to ensure that there is an investigation into ministers using private emails to conduct official government business in secret, agreeing contracts in private, etc. We need full transparency on this and a full investigation.”
Aubrey Allegretti and Matthew Weaver