‘Public deserve answers’: Matt Hancock faces pressure over family company awarded NHS contracts

Ashley Cowburn
·3-min read

Matt Hancock is facing pressure to explain how a company with family links, and that he holds shares in, was awarded NHS contracts, as Labour accused the health secretary of a possible breach of the ministerial code.

In the latest MPs’ register of interests – published earlier this week – Mr Hancock declared he now owns shares in the company Topwood Limited, which specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents.

It emerged last night the company was awarded a three-year £150,000 contract from NHS Wales – run by the devolved government – for confidential destruction of waste last month, just days after Mr Hancock took on the share.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) first reported the firm, which is part-owned by the health secretary’s sister, Emily Gilruth, also won a place on a framework to provide services to England’s NHS in 2019, after Mr Hancock was appointed to his current cabinet role.

There is no suggestion the health secretary was directly involved in any of the contract awards and it also understood he has no direct involvement in the running of the company.

However, the register of members’ interests did not mention the company’s family links, or that his sister is declared as a “director” of Topwood Limited, according to Companies House.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said: “The health secretary needs to explain in a public statement today how a company owned by his family members which he holds shares in came to win a place on a business services framework to provide services to the NHS, as well as explaining why he did not declare that the company is owned by his family members.”

Citing the ministerial code, which states ministers “must scrupulously avoid any danger of an actual or perceived conflict of interest between their ministerial position and their private financial interests”, Ms Rayner added: “It appears that the health secretary has breached the ministerial code, and the public deserve answers”.

As the government faces questions over links to private business amid the Greensill lobbying scandal, she went on: “It is clear that Tory sleaze and cronyism has engulfed this government, making it even more urgent that the government publish the delayed register of ministers’ interests in full immediately”.

Before registering that he had received “more than 15 per cent” of TopWood’s shares, Mr Hancock discussed his proposed involvement with the top civil servant at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), who said he was confident that if any conflicts of interests arose they could be dealt with in line with the ministerial code.

A government spokesperson said: “Mr Hancock has acted entirely properly in these circumstances. All declarations of interest have been made in accordance with the ministerial code. Ministers have no involvement in the awarding of these contracts, and no conflict of interest arises.”

A man who answered the phone, when The Independent called Topwood on Thursday evening to ask questions relating to the health secretary’s role in the company, said only “no comment” before terminating the call.

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