The health minister James Bethell is under formal investigation for sponsoring the parliamentary pass of Gina Coladangelo, the aide Matt Hancock had a relationship with in breach of Covid rules.
The House of Lords standards commissioner said they were looking into Lord Bethell’s “use of facilities” – understood to relate to the pass he secured for Coladangelo that gave her unfettered access to parliamentarians and the Palace of Westminster estate.
Labour had called for an inquiry over the weekend, saying Bethell was Hancock’s “chum” and “dished her out a pass”, raising the prospect that there was “one rule for the Conservatives and their friends and another for everyone else”.
Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chair, demanded to know what help Coladangelo gave Bethell, given peers are only allowed to provide passes to carers, spouses and those who “genuinely and personally provide parliamentary secretarial or research assistance to the sponsoring member”.
In a letter defending his actions to the Lords commissioner, seen by the Guardian, Bethell said Coladangelo was unpaid and helped him with parliamentary research, drafted speeches and engaged with stakeholders.
He said Coladangelo’s pass was granted on 12 March 2020 under the name Gina Tress, her married name, but the rules in relation to how lords could sponsor passes were changed in November 2020, and he cancelled the pass the following month.