United Kingdom

Embattled peer Lord Bethell QUITS following scrutiny over emails linked to £90million Covid deals

The embattled peer Lord Bethell has quit following scrutiny over 33,000 emails linked to £90million of Covid deals in his private account.   

The Conservative peer's departure from the Department of Health and Social Care comes after he faced calls to resign earlier this year over his use of a personal email account rather than official communication channels.

Downing Street has previously acknowledged Lord Bethell was using a private email address, but suggested that was allowed, while the peer has insisted he has done nothing wrong.

The embattled peer Lord Bethell (far right) has quit following scrutiny over 33,000 emails linked to £90million of Covid deals in his private account 

Lord Bethell and former health secretary Matt Hancock have faced claims that they used their private accounts to discuss Government business during the pandemic, including potential coronavirus contracts.

The peer previously insisted he sought to uphold the ministerial code 'in everything I do'.

Last month, it was confirmed that an Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) inquiry into the use of private communications channels by ministers and officials at DHSC will cover WhatsApp and other phone messaging apps.

It followed pressure from Labour for more details on the investigation after it emerged Lord Bethell had recently replaced his mobile phone and that data on the old one may no longer be retrievable.

Lord Bethell and former health secretary Matt Hancock have faced claims that they used their private accounts to discuss Government business during the pandemic, including potential coronavirus contracts 

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.

Lord Bethell tweeted on Friday afternoon: 'Sad to be standing down but I want to thank @borisjohnson for the opportunity to serve my country during this awful pandemic.

Letters from the Government's lawyers say searches of Lord Bethell's private email accounts using keywords relating to the Covid contracts reveal there are between 8,463 and 33,428 separate emails in his private accounts that contain them

'It's been a privilege to work with wonderful colleagues in @dhscgovuk (and healthcare generally) during these times.'

Lord Bethell was appointed as a parliamentary under secretary of state at DHSC in March last year and was responsible for representing health matters and legislation in the House of Lords.

He previously served as government whip from July 2019 to March 2020.

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