Matt Hancock and his staff agonised for hours over whether or not he broke Covid guidance when he kissed his aide, leaked messages in the Telegraph show.
The WhatsApp messages were sent after The Sun newspaper published a photo of Mr Hancock kissing Gina Coladangelo.
His spokesman said there was “nothing new” in the messages and “absolutely no public interest” in publishing them.
“It’s highly intrusive, completely inappropriate and has all been discussed endlessly before,” he added.
The spokesman said the public coronavirus inquiry had been given access to all the messages.
The BBC has not seen or independently verified the messages nor the context in which they were sent.
When the photo was first published, the messages show Mr Hancock asked his special adviser at the time Damon Poole to “keep the focus” on her appointment.
The then health secretary also asks if another minister could emphasise that “no rules have been broken”.
Mr Poole asks Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo to think “really hard” about whether they could have broken any Covid rules.
Mr Hancock says: “Other than obviously the 1m+ I honestly can’t think of any.”
He adds: “The worst they can do is ‘kissed before they legalised hugs’.”
But then Mr Hancock asks his adviser to clarify what exactly the rules were at the time of the photograph.
The two of them then exchange options for how they can respond to media coverage.
This ranges from acknowledging he “breached the social distancing rules” – which Matt Hancock says he doesn’t think he can do, adding, “I think I just went against the clinical advice” – to saying that “no rules were broken”.
In one exchange, Matt Hancock cites social distancing guidance for workers at the time saying that workers should “maintain social distancing guidelines wherever possible”, to which his adviser responds: “Yes, but it was possible. Clearly. From the picture.”
In a separate published exchange, Matt Hancock seeks the advice of the former chancellor George Osborne about a video statement he was due to put out.
Mr Osborne says it is “good” but suggests he probably wants to “include the apology to your loved ones you have in the letter”.
He eventually resigned over the matter, publishing a video on his Twitter page.