Matt Hancock has resigned as health secretary after he breached social distancing guidance by kissing a colleague.
In letter to Boris Johnson he said the government “owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down”.
It comes after embarrassing footage emerged of him in a clinch with a colleague on 6 May, when the public were still being advised not to hug people outside their household.
In written response, Johnson wrote: “You should leave office very proud of what you have achieved – not just in tackling the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 struck us.”
The health secretary had already faced questions about his relationship with Gina Coladangelo, a university friend who was brought in to be a non-executive director at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The CCTV footage was taken on 6 May, according to the Sun, which obtained the pictures.
Under the government’s unlocking timetable, intimate contact with people outside your own household was only permitted from 17 May, at step 3 of the process.
Hancock had already faced intense pressure in recent weeks, with Boris Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings claiming he had urged the prime minister to sack the health secretary up to 20 times, for allegedly lying to colleagues about care homes, testing and other aspects of the pandemic response.
Cummings subsequently published private messages in which the prime minister called Hancock “totally fucking hopeless”. The Queen was filmed earlier this week at an audience with Johnson, calling Hancock “poor man”.
In November last year, Labour complained about apparent cronyism after it emerged that Coladangelo, the head of marketing at the Oliver Bonas retail chain, was first made an unpaid adviser at the DHSC and then a non-executive director, a part-time role paid £15,000 a year.
Labour said that while ministers were “entitled to a private life”, there needed to be full transparency about whether any rules had been broken over the appointment.