Now another top Tory says he uses private emails: Lord Bethell admits using account for work but insists he has done nothing wrong
- Health minister admitted to using a personal email for Government business
- Lord Bethell said he used the account for work but insisted he did nothing wrong
- Comes after it emerged Matt Hancock used Gmail for departmental business
- Controversial as means correspondence could be withheld from public inquiry
A health minister was at the centre of a furious row last night after he admitted to using a personal email account for Government business.
Lord Bethell said he used the account for work but last night he insisted he had done nothing wrong.
It comes after it emerged at the weekend that Matt Hancock had been using Gmail for departmental business and potentially to discuss the award of contracts. The practice is highly controversial as it means that vital correspondence could be withheld from a public inquiry.
Lord Bethell (pictured) said he used the personal email account for work but last night he insisted he had done nothing wrong
Pressed by Tory peer Lord Udny-Lister, Lord Bethell said: ‘The guidelines are clear – it is not wrong for ministers to have personal email addresses and I have corresponded with a very large number of members in this chamber from both my parliamentary and from my personal address and that is right and I will continue to do so.’
The Good Law Project, which has fought a series of legal battles over coronavirus contracts, published a leaked email to Lord Bethell’s private account from Lord Feldman regarding an offer to supply Covid-19 test kits.
Downing Street insisted on Monday that ‘both the former health secretary and Lord Bethell understand the rules around personal email usage and only ever conducted Government business through their departmental email addresses’.
But yesterday, it suggested the use of personal emails to conduct Government business was acceptable if the information was copied to an official account.
It comes after it emerged at the weekend that Matt Hancock had been using Gmail for departmental business and potentially to discuss the award of contracts. The practice is highly controversial as it means that vital correspondence could be withheld from a public inquiry
Asked if he recognised that the released emails showed that Lord Bethell was using a private email address, the spokesman said: ‘Yes, we have been clear that ministers are able to communicate in a variety of different ways as long as they adhere to the guidance as set out.’
The ‘important point’ was that ministers ensured that ‘when there have been substantive discussions or decisions generated in the course of those communications they then ensure relevant information is passed on and is accessible’.
The issue is controversial because keeping emails off government servers could potentially make it easier to avoid transparency requirements and Freedom of Information laws.
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