The Government has been accused of “cronyism” after it emerged that the Health Secretary owns shares in an NHS contract-winning firm which his sister is also connected to. BBC News has the story.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock owns shares in a company which was approved as a potential supplier for NHS trusts in England…

In March, [Matt Hancock] declared he had acquired more than 15% of Topwood Ltd, which was granted the approved status in 2019.

The firm, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, also won £300,000 of business from NHS Wales this year.

A Government spokesman said there had been no conflict of interest. …

Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests that he had acquired more than 15% of the shares in Topwood, under a “delegated management arrangement”.

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

The MPs’ register did not mention that his sister Emily Gilruth – involved in the firm since its foundation in 2002 – owns a larger portion of the shares and is a director, or that Topwood has links to the NHS – as first reported by the Guido Fawkes blog and Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Guido has more:

Not only did Hancock’s sister’s firm win two NHS Wales contracts, it won a place on a framework to provide services to the English NHS in 2019 – half a year after Hancock became Health Secretary. He failed to declare any conflicts of interest in his member’s register.

While many ministers do declare interests of parents and siblings – even when they aren’t directly relevant to their role – the Department for Health wouldn’t be drawn on whether Hancock discussed his family involvement in the firm with the Permanent Secretary or Independent Advisor.

As the HSJ points out, this news comes at a particularly bad time for the Government, though the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) maintains that Hancock “has acted entirely properly”.

The news comes amid increased scrutiny of links between Government and business, in the wake of the Greensill scandal and concerns about how public sector contracts were awarded during the Covid pandemic.

The DHSC spokesman’s full comment on the issue last night was: “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.”

Unsurprisingly, Labour has jumped on this story, with Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth saying that Hancock’s undeclared interest was “shocking”.

Sadly I suspect no one is surprised any more at the cronyism at the heart of this Government.

The BBC News report is worth reading in full.