'Serious questions to answer': Matt Hancock and sister own shares in NHS contract firm

16 April 2021, 11:31

Matt Hancock and his sister own significant shares in a private company awarded an NHS contract
Matt Hancock and his sister own significant shares in a private company awarded an NHS contract. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

There are "serious questions to answer" after it was revealed that Matt Hancock has shares in a family company which has contracts with the NHS, Labour has said.

The Health Secretary declared in the MPs' register of interests in March that he now owns shares in company Topwood Limited, which specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents.

The firm, owned by his sister, was awarded a contract to provide services to the English NHS in 2019, as well as contracts with the NHS in Wales, according to reports in the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

READ MORE: 'Sleazy' David Cameron acted just 'to line his pockets', says MP Rachel Reeves

READ MORE: David Cameron will respond 'positively' to requests for lobbying evidence

It also reported that the Mr Hancock did not declare his connection to the company in the relevant register of interests, a claim rejected by the Government.

A Government spokeswoman said the Health Secretary had acted "entirely properly in these circumstances" and that all declarations of interest have been made "in accordance with the ministerial code".

Meanwhile, a Whitehall source said that the Health Secretary has no active participation in running Topwood Limited and that neither he nor the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) were involved in awarding the contracts.

The source said that Mr Hancock had discussed with the department's top civil servant, the Permanent Secretary, that he was to be gifted the shares in the firm before accepting them.

At this point it was decided that if any conflicts of interest did arise, they could be dealt with in line with the ministerial code, which sets out standards of conduct for ministers.

EXPLAINED: What is lobbying and why does it cause so much unease?

Mr Hancock has no responsibility for NHS Wales, which reportedly awarded the firm £300,000 worth of contracts, as health is devolved and dealt with by the Welsh Government.

It follows accusations of "cronyism" within Government by Labour, which is calling for a full inquiry into the Greensill Capital lobbying controversy.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: "It is now clear this Conservative Government has been infected with widespread cronyism and is unable to identify where the line is drawn between personal and departmental interests.

"It's one rule for them, another for everybody else.

"There are serious questions to answer from Matt Hancock and there needs to be a full inquiry and immediate publication of all documents relating to Topwood's acceptance on to the framework contract in 2019."

READ MORE: Starmer accuses Johnson of 'blocking proper inquiry' into Greensill lobbying scandal

A Government spokeswoman 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."