Health Secretary committed 'minor' breach of rules over family firm's NHS contract

Matt Hancock MP

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has been found to have committed a 'minor' breach of the ministerial code by failing to declare that a family firm in which he held shares had won an NHS contract.

In a report into ministerial interests, the Prime Minister’s ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, found that the failure to declare the link was a “technical” breach of the rules.

Lord Geidt, an independent adviser on ministerial standards, said: “I assess this earlier failure to declare the interest was as a result of his lack of knowledge and in no way deliberate, and therefore, in technical terms, a minor breach of the ministerial code.

“I have advised the Prime Minister accordingly.

“In coming to this finding, I recognise that Mr Hancock has acted with integrity throughout and that this event should in no way impugn his good character or ministerial record.”

Health Secretary Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests in March this year that he owns 20% of shares in Topwood Limited, a firm owned by his sister and other close family members, which specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents.

The company, as first reported by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), won a place on a framework to provide services to the English NHS in 2019, as well as contracts with the NHS in Wales, after the West Suffolk MP was appointed to his Cabinet brief in July 2018.

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In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Hancock said: “I did not know about the framework decision, and so I do not think I could reasonably have been expected to declare it.

“Nor can I see how a conflict of interest can arise on a matter about which I had no knowledge.”

In his reply, Boris Johnson told Mr Hancock he agreed with Lord Geidt’s assessment and “I do not consider that any further action is required”.

In the same report, Lord Geidt also found the Prime Minister had not broken the code in relation to how the renovation of his Downing Street flat was funded, but criticised him for failing to take a “more rigorous” interest in the process.

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