The Prime minister’s Official spokesperson said: “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,” and said using personal Gmail was “related to things like diary acceptances”.
This contradicts claims made by cabinet office minister Julia Lopez. Responding to questions from Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, Lopez said a “huge volume of correspondence was coming to ministers via their personal email addresses”, regarding PPE contracts.
According to evidence obtained by the Good Law project, Lord Bethell has been shown to use personal email addresses for government business. Bethell’s address was copied into at least four official exchanges relating to a businessman who was attempting to get government contracts during the pandemic.
When challenged on this issue, No 10 later confirmed that Health Minister Lord Bethell did in fact use his private email account. The spokesperson said: “Yes, we’ve been clear that ministers are able to communicate through a variety of different ways as long as they adhere to the guidance set out.”
The Downing Street spokesperson’s initial claim was false. Coded remarks by a Downing Street spokesperson later seemed to acknowledge that journalists had been misled.