Friday 16 April 2021 / 2:35 PM Jonathan Ashworth

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth demands answers from government on Health Secretary’s family business cronyism

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth demands answers from government on Health Secretary’s family business cronyism

 

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, has today written to the Cabinet Secretary demanding an explanation for why Matt Hancock failed to declare a personal interest in his sister’s company, Topwood Ltd, which was awarded a contract to provide waste disposal services to the NHS in England in 2019. Subsequently, Mr Hancock was gifted more than 15% of shares in this company.

 

The demand comes in the wake of continuing revelations around a lack of transparency in Government procurement, including inappropriate lobbying by former Prime Minister David Cameron and the links between Government ministers and the recently collapsed finance firm, Greensill Capital.

 

In the letter to Simon Case, Jonathan Ashworth said:

 

“Many serious questions remain unanswered, and no stone must be left unturned in tackling the culture of cronyism and sleaze that surrounds this Government.

 

“I reiterate calls from my colleagues on the Shadow Front Bench for the Government to publish the delayed Register of Ministers’ Interests setting out Ministers’ financial affairs and interests by the 23rd April, this is vital to maintain public confidence in Ministerial decision making.”

 

“This is a matter of the upmost importance for the protection of democracy in our country and I urge you to take full and thorough action. You must insist that the Health Secretary explain himself, and make that explanation available to the public. I seek your judgement on whether Matt Hancock’s behaviour in this instance is a breach of the Ministerial code; all those in Government who have acted inappropriately must be held to account.

 

Ends

 

Full text of letter:

 

Dear Mr Case,

 

Re: Health Secretary and Topwood Ltd

 

I am writing to express my concern at revelations in recent news of the contracts awarded by the Department of Health and Social Care for services provided to the NHS in England, to a company owned and operated by the sister of the Health Secretary and other members of his family.

 

Despite the fact that Topwood Ltd, successfully won a tender competition to secure a place on an NHS Shared Business Services framework for “confidential waste destruction and disposal” at the beginning of 2019, the Health Secretary failed to declare a personal connection. It is also not clear whether Mr Hancock discussed his family’s involvement in the firm with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Care at the time when the contract was awarded. Subsequently, Mr Hancock was gifted more than 15% of shares in this company.

 

As you will be aware these revelations come in the context of significant public concern regarding the links between Government ministers and the recently collapsed finance firm, Greensill Capital.

 

The review into supply chain finance and Greensill announced by the Government is wholly inadequate. I welcome the Treasury Select Committee’s announcement that it will investigate claims that the Health Secretary and the Chancellor were both inappropriately lobbied by the former Prime Minister David Cameron to secure contracts and Government support for Greensill Capital.

 

However, it is clear that there is a wider pattern of behaviour here. Many serious questions remain unanswered, and no stone must be left unturned in tackling the culture of cronyism and sleaze that surrounds this Government.

 

As the lead Department on propriety and ethics within Government, it is incumbent on the Cabinet Office to ensure public confidence in government procurement based on the principles of transparency and the protection of taxpayer’s money. My role in Opposition is to ensure proper scrutiny of this, but this important work also falls to you as head of the Cabinet Office.

 

I reiterate calls from my colleagues on the Shadow Front Bench for the government to publish the delayed Register of Ministers’ Interests setting out Ministers’ financial affairs and interests by the 23rd April, this is vital to maintain public confidence in Ministerial decision making.

 

This is a matter of the upmost importance for the protection of democracy in our country and I urge you to take full and thorough action. You must insist the Health Secretary explain himself, and make that explanation available to the public. I seek your judgement on whether Matt Hancock’s behaviour in this instance is a breach of the Ministerial code; all those in Government who have acted inappropriately must be held to account.

 

As answers on this matter are in the public interest, I will be releasing a copy of this letter to the press.