Hancock and sister own firm given NHS contracton April 16, 2021 at 4:15 am

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The health secretary is accused of “cronyism” but the government says he acted “entirely properly”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

image copyrightReuters

A company in which Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his sister have shares has won contracts from NHS Wales, it has emerged.

NHS Wales gave the company, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, £300,000 of business this year.

Labour said it amounted to “cronyism at the heart of this government”.

A government spokesman said that Mr Hancock had acted “entirely properly” and there was no conflict of interest.

In March this year, Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests that he had acquired more than 15% of the shares of a company called Topwood Ltd.

But the register did not mention that his sister Emily Gilruth owned a larger portion of the shares and is a director of the firm, or that Topwood has links to the NHS – as first reported by the Guido Fawkes blog and Health Service Journal.

Public contract records show that the NHS awarded Topwood a place in its Shared Business Services framework as a potential supplier for local NHS trusts in 2019, the year after Mr Hancock became health secretary.

A Department for Health source said Mr Hancock had discussed the fact he was to be gifted shares in the firm with civil servants before he accepted them.

They ruled that if any conflicts of interest were to arise, they could be handled in line with the ministerial code, the rulebook setting out the standards of conduct for ministers.

The department also said the health secretary has no active role in running Topwood, and as health secretary for England, he has no responsibility for NHS Wales.

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.”

Company records show his sister was involved in the company from its establishment in 2002. But in previous years, before he was given the shares but after he became health secretary, Mr Hancock did not list any connection to Topwood on the register of interests.

When he was secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport in 2017, he did declare that his brother Chris Hancock is CEO of an investment crowdfunding company called Crowd2Fund.

The ministerial code states that ministers should declare interests of close family if they believe they might give rise to a conflict.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was “shocking” that a company linked to Mr Hancock’s family was given a place in the NHS framework as a potential supplier. “Sadly I suspect no one is surprised any more at the cronyism at the heart of this government,” he said.

Mr Hancock has not yet had the opportunity to respond.

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