Matt Hancock has declined to comment on reports he is having an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo in the Department of Health.
The Sun revealed pictures of the Health Secretary appearing to be embracing his aide, who he hired last year with taxpayers’ money, in what the newspaper called a “steamy clinch”.
Mr Hancock, 42, appeared to be kissing Ms Coladangelo, 43, in what seemed to be CCTV footage taken on May 6 from the Department of Health’s London headquarters.
The Health Secretary has been accused of cheating on his wife of 15 years with Ms Coladangelo, who is a close friend, lobbyist and taxpayer-funded adviser to his department.
Mr Hancock appointed Ms Coladangelo to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract in March last year, and appointed her as a non-executive director in September.
Mr Hancock and his wife, Martha, have three children together. Ms Coladangelo is also married with three children.
Ms Coladangelo is the communications director at Oliver Bonas, the fashion, jewellery and homeware store founded by her husband, Oliver Tress.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, the Transport Secretary said he would not be commenting on what he called the “entirely personal” matter, following the publication of pictures allegedly depicting his married Cabinet colleague Matt Hancock in an embrace with his closest aide.
Grant Shapps told Sky News that former lobbyist Gina Coladangelo – who the Health Secretary met at university – would have gone through an “incredibly rigorous” process to get the job.
Asked about the rules around appointing friends to Government positions, Mr Shapps said: “First of all, I think the actual issue is entirely personal for Matt Hancock.
“In terms of rules, anyone who has been appointed has to go through an incredibly rigorous process in Government, so whatever the rules are, the rules will have to be followed.
“There are no shortcuts to that, as anyone who has had anything to do with the appointments system in the Civil Service knows.
“There are very strict rules in place.”
Labour said the Government needs to answer whether the Health Secretary had broken any rules or there had been “conflicts of interest” in the appointment of his closest adviser.
It follows reports that Matt Hancock has been having a relationship with a senior aide whom he first met when they were at Oxford University.
An Opposition party spokesman said: “Ministers, like everyone, are entitled to a private life.
“However, when taxpayers’ money is involved or jobs are being offered to close friends who are in a personal relationship with a minister, then that needs to be looked into.
“The Government needs to be open and transparent about whether there are any conflicts of interests or rules that have been broken.”