Matt Hancock's former neighbour and pub landlord is being investigated by the UK's medical watchdog after winning a £30 million Covid contract, it has been revealed.
A packaging firm owned by Alex Bourne is the subject of inquiries by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for alleged "non-compliance" with regulations. It produced millions of Covid test vials for the NHS.
Meanwhile, Mr Hancock declined to apologise after the High Court ruled the Government had unlawfully failed to publish details of billions of pounds' worth of coronavirus-related contracts.
Mr Bourne's firm, Hinpack, attracted scrutiny when it emerged that he had won the contract after exchanging a personal WhatsApp message with Mr Hancock, despite having no experience in the medical products industry.
On Sunday night Graeme Tunbridge, MHRA director of devices, said: "We are currently investigating the allegations about Hinpack and will take appropriate action as necessary. As this is an ongoing investigation we are unable to disclose further information at this time."
Mr Bourne was previously the landlord of the Thurlow village pub, near Mr Hancock's home. He insisted on Sunday they had never been "close friends".
Hinpack had not been notified of the MHRA investigation, he said, adding that the main complaint related to an overspill car park, for which his firm was applying for retrospective planning permission.
Asked in December whether he had helped Mr Bourne win the contract, Mr Hancock replied: "I had absolutely nothing to do with that contract."
The Health Secretary has faced calls for greater accountability after a judge said that he did not publish redacted contracts in accordance with transparency policy.
On the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday Mr Hancock said that legal cases about transparency returns were "second order" to saving lives and that his officials had been working long hours to procure PPE instead.
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