Matt Hancock failed to declare family connections to company that won NHS contracts

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Lucy Fisher
·3 min read
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Mr Hancock did not declare his close family links to the company in any of his ministerial declarations - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA
Mr Hancock did not declare his close family links to the company in any of his ministerial declarations - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, did not declare his connections to a company owned by close family members despite it being awarded a place on a framework to provide services to the NHS in England.

Topwood Ltd secured a deal to provide waste disposal services to the Health Service in 2019 when it was owned by his sister Emily Gilruth and mother Shirley Carter, the Health Service Journal reported.

Mr Hancock, who had become Health Secretary the year before, did not declare his close family links to the company in any of his ministerial declarations.

The ministerial code says frontbenchers have a "personal responsibility… to decide whether and what action is needed to avoid a conflict or the perception of a conflict".

It adds: "On appointment to each new office, ministers must provide their permanent secretary with a full list in writing of all interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict. The list should also cover interests of the minister's spouse or partner and close family which might be thought to give rise to a conflict."

It is unclear whether Mr Hancock discussed his close family links to Topwood with the permanent secretary of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) after the firm won a place on the NHS Shared Business Services scheme. The Telegraph has asked the department.

Many frontbenchers record their close family members' interests in the ministerial register. A Government spokesman said Mr Hancock had "acted entirely properly" and that "all declarations of interest have been made in accordance with the ministerial code".

Last month, the Health Secretary declared in the MPs' register of interests that he had acquired shares in Topwood Ltd.

NHS Wales has awarded £150,000 of business to the company, which specialises in secure storage and shredding. Mr Hancock has no responsibility for NHS Wales because health is a devolved matter and is dealt with by the Welsh government.

A Whitehall source said the Health Secretary has no active participation in running Topwood Ltd and that neither he nor the DHSC were involved in awarding the contracts. The source added that Mr Hancock had discussed with the department's top civil servant, the permanent secretary, that he was to be gifted the shares 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.

However, Mr Hancock drew criticism for omitting to declare his family connection to Topwood Ltd. Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told The Telegraph: "It's clearly shocking that he didn't record or declare the role of his sister."

Sir Alistair said of the wider row engulfing Westminster: "As story comes after story, the sleaze connection [to Government] does look to have some legs. It looks as if there is a serious problem."

Lord Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, said: "The question is not always was there something inappropriate about it, but how does it look? I think there is an issue about whether it looks appropriate."

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

Justin Madders, the Labour shadow health minister, said: "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."

A Government spokesman 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."