THE HEALTH Secretary has apologised after it emerged he is having an affair with his close adviser.

In a statement issued this afternoon, he acknowledged he had broken social distancing rules after being caught on CCTV in a romantic embrace with Gina Coladangelo - an aide he appointed his months ago.

The pair are thought to have known one another since their time at Oxford University. 

Mr Hancock has not resigned from his role, despite repeated calls to do so from opposition parties.

In a statement he said: "I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.

"I have let people down and am very sorry."

He reiterated his commitment to the job, adding: "I remain focused on working to get the country out of this pandemic, and would be grateful for privacy for my family on this personal matter.”

Downing Street has remained tight-lipped about the scandal this mrning, however Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told journalists that there has always been a separation between public and private life for politicians. 

However others have called for an inquiry, arguing that if public funds were used to employ Ms Coladangelo it could represent a misuse of money or conflict of interest. 

Labour has called for an inquiry, saying : “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.”

The SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said the latest scandal shows that Westminster is "rotten to the core".

He said: "Private matters are just that but public appointments are another matter entirely - and they warrant proper scrutiny and full transparency.

"There must be an investigation into this appointment and a full public inquiry into the Tory cronyism scandal engulfing Westminster, which is out of control. The public deserve answers as to why so many Tory friends and donors have been handed jobs, peerages, public contracts and many millions of pounds in taxpayers' money.

"It might be an amazing coincidence that the Tory Health Secretary's university friend was the best person for a £15,000 role on the board of his department and also as an adviser - but it raises more questions over why Tory friends and donors are being given privileged access and public money.

"Whether it's unlawfully handing multi-million pound contracts to friends, soliciting donations to redecorate the Downing Street flat, offering peerages to billionaire donors, organising tax breaks over text, or giving your pals jobs at the heart of the UK government - many will conclude this Tory chumocracy shows Boris Johnson and his ministers are arrogantly abusing public office and are only in it for themselves.

"The Westminster system is rotten to the core and broken beyond repair. Instead of putting up with this farce, Scotland can shake off Westminster and build a fairer and more democratic future as an independent country."