Health Secretary Matt Hancock has denied claims that he broke the Government’s Covid drinking curfew.
The Cabinet minister’s spokesman insisted allegations Mr Hancock stayed drinking in a Commons bar beyond 10pm were untrue.
The Mail on Sunday reported the Health Secretary breached restrictions introduced by the Government to halt the spread of the virus.
It was also claimed he made an inappropriate joke about the failings of the test and trace system.
The newspaper reported Mr Hancock arrived at the Commons bar just before a 9.40pm vote, ordered a glass of white wine and joked: “The drinks are on me – but Public Health England are in charge of the payment methodology so I will not be paying anything.”
Mr Hancock’s reference to Public Health England came after he had addressed the Commons regarding the controversy over the organisation misplacing nearly 16,000 coronavirus test results.
The Health Secretary’s spokesman insisted the minister had not broken curfew rules.
He said: “The proposed timeline of events is false and no rules have been broken.
“The Secretary of State was in the smoking room prior to the vote that evening. The Secretary of State left the smoking room to vote. The vote took place at 9.42pm.
“The Secretary of State then departed the parliamentary estate to go home.”
However, a Government source confirmed that Mr Hancock had made the joke as reported.
The accusations come at a highly sensitive time for the Government as mayors in northern England have expressed opposition to expected moves next week to shut down parts of the hospitality sector, such as pubs.
Asked about reports Mr Hancock had been excluded from some high level meetings regarding the Covid outbreak, a Government spokesperson told the PA news agency the claims were “totally false”.