The government has said it will not search the private email account of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock for discussions of official business. Mr Hancock, who quit last month, has already admitted he used his personal address on a number of occasions.
The campaign group Good Law Project argued his inbox should be checked for the sake of transparency, but the government rejected this, saying:
“A sweep of emails was neither necessary nor proportionate”.
No.10 has confirmed that as a result of Mr Hancock’s use of his personal account, the government does not have a record of much of his decision-making during the pandemic. This included negotiating PPE contracts, creating the test-and-trace programme and overseeing the care homes strategy.
Ministers are not banned from using personal emails for work purposes but are advised to use their official accounts and should consider whether communications contain “substantive discussions or decisions generated in the course of conducting government business”. If they do, ministers should “take steps to ensure the relevant information is accessible”, such as copying emails from their personal account to a government account, so they are automatically stored on Whitehall systems.
In a letter sent by its lawyers on 13 July, the Good Law Project asked the government to search the private email account of Mr Hancock, as well as those of health minister Lord Bethell, international trade minister Greg Hands and former Treasury minister Lord Deighton. It said this was a “straightforward” request that should be dealt with in a “straightforward manner”.
But the government responded that, “in the course of a disclosure exercise, a search has been undertaken of more than 1.4million documents.”