Matt Hancock has resigned as health secretary after admitting breaking coronavirus rules, Downing Street says.
In his letter of resignation, Mr Hancock said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.
“I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.”
It comes after leaked CCTV showed the MP kissing aide and former lobbyist Gina Coladangelo in his departmental office.
The images, published by The Sun, were from 6 May – more than a week before the easing of social distancing rules around close contact indoors for people from separate households.
Ms Coladangelo will also leave her position at the Department of Health and Social Care, it was confirmed on Saturday.
Mr Hancock said in his letter of resignation: “We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.
“We didn’t get every decision right but I know people understand how hard it is to deal with the unknown, making the difficult trade-offs between freedom, prosperity and health that we have faced.
“I am so proud that Britain avoided the catastrophe of an overwhelmed NHS and that through foresight and brilliant science we have led the world in the vaccination effort, so we stand on the brink of a return to normality.”
Responding to Mr Hancock’s resignation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote: “You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before COVID-19 struck us.”
He added: “You should be immensely proud of your service. I am grateful for your support and believe that your contribution to public service is far from over.”
Matt Hancock is right to resign. But Boris Johnson should have sacked him.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) June 26, 2021
Labour and the Liberal Democrats had demanded Mr Hancock’s removal, saying the footage raised questions over whether there was a conflict of interest in the appointment of Ms Coladangelo, and whether social distancing rules had been broken.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman had earlier rejected any impropriety, saying “This appointment was made in the usual way and followed correct procedure.”
As questions over his future were growing, Mr Hancock pulled out of a planned constituency event and issued a written statement apologising for breaking COVID rules, but indicated he intended to continue in post.
Analysis: Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor
One thing that became clear today was that Tory MPs were prepared to publicly call for Matt Hancock’s resignation.
Another thing that became clear was the distinct absence of any countervailing outpouring or support from friends and allies.
There was nobody making the case that he had been at the forefront of the pandemic response for 16 months, or that we should give him some space to work out issues in his private life.
That was one of the big factors in determining what has happened.
Even yesterday friends of Matt Hancock were suggesting they thought this moment might come – the conspicuously few voices of support were vital and they didn’t emerge.
To get to where he did by the age of 42, you have to step over a few people – perhaps that is the reason that at this moment of political peril, he did not have a huge number of allies close enough to back him up.
He did run for the leadership at one stage in 2019, but he pulled out and backed Boris Johnson,
That did him damage because the people who had offered Mr Hancock support were doing so precisely in order to prevent Boris Johnson.
It is just one example, and there will be a plethora of other reasons, but you see the consequences of that damage today.
The Sunday Times reported in November that Mr Hancock had failed to declare he had appointed Ms Coladangelo as an unpaid adviser on a six-month contract last March and later gave her a role on the board of the Department of Health.
Her LinkedIn profile says she has been working as a non-executive director at the Department of Health since September 2020 and was at Oxford University at the same time as the health secretary.
She is also the marketing and communications director at British retailer Oliver Bonas, which was founded by her husband Oliver Tress.
Mr Hancock, who was appointed health secretary by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018, has been married to his wife Martha for 15 years and they have three children together.
According to The Sunday Times, Mr Hancock told his wife he was leaving her on the night the affair was revealed, having raced home after being told about reports of his infidelity.
Mr Hancock had even woken up the couple’s youngest child, aged eight, to break the news that he was leaving.
Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby reports that Mr Hancock has left his wife for Ms Coladangelo. Friends of his say their relationship is “recent but serious”.
Told that Hancock has left his wife for Gina Coladangelo. Friends of the former Health Secretary say his relationship with Gina is ‘recent but serious’.
— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) June 26, 2021
During the pandemic Mr Hancock had been critical of those who broke COVID rules, including Professor Neil Ferguson – a senior epidemiologist who sat on the government’s advisory panel, SAGE.
Speaking to Sky News in May last year after it was revealed that Professor Ferguson had broken lockdown rules by allowing a woman he was having a relationship with into his home, Mr Hancock said: “I think the social distancing rules are very important and people should follow them.”
Mr Hancock has also been heavily criticised by Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
In a lengthy evidence session to a joint select committee of MPs investigating the government’s handling of the pandemic, Mr Cummings said the former health secretary should have been sacked for “at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions”.