Health secretary Matt Hancock has a stake in his sister’s company that has recently won NHS contracts, it has emerged as questions are raised over the links between the Tory government and the private sector.
In the latest edition of the register of members of parliament’s interests, Hancock is shown to hold at least a 15% share in a company called Topwood Limited, with the declaration made last month.
Last month, Topwood won two NHS Wales contracts worth £150,000 each to carry out waste disposal services, including the shredding of confidential documents.
Health Service Journal also found Topwood has been in line for health contracts in England, securing a place on the NHS Shared Business Services framework for “confidential waste destruction and disposal” in 2019, just months after Hancock became secretary of state. The framework is effectively a shortlist of providers available to the local NHS. The HSJ added that Hancock did not declare his association with the firm in any of the published ministerial interests declarations of recent years,
Administration of the NHS in Wales is devolved to the country’s government, so does not fall under Hancock’s control.
There is no suggestion that Hancock influenced the award of the contracts or its place on the framework.
It is understood Hancock has no active participation in the running of the company and the minister discussed the shareholding with the department’s permanent secretary, its most senior civil servant.
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.”
A confirmation statement recorded at Companies House on March 19 showed that Gilruth and Topwood’s managing director, Thomas Gilruth, each held 40 of the company’s ordinary shares, and the remaining 20 were held by Hancock.
Previous shareholders Bob and Shirley Carter were recorded as each giving up 10 shares each earlier in the year.
In his first speech as health secretary, Hancock spoke about how the NHS saved his sister’s life after a horse riding accident and how that informed his love for the NHS.
“I have never had a moment where somebody so close has been at a risk of dying,” he said.
He added: “I love my sister and the NHS saved her life, so when I say I love the NHS, I really mean it. My commitment to the health service and the fundamental principles that underpin it is not just professional, it is deeply personal.”
It comes amid the furore over lobbying by former prime minister David Cameron on behalf of Greensill Capital and the revelation that a top civil servant worked for the failed firm while still employed in his public sector role.
The controversy over the relationship between government and the private sector follows disclosures that Cameron personally lobbied chancellor Rishi Sunak on Greensill’s behalf – and was able to arrange for its founder, Lex Greensill, to have a “private drink” with Hancock.
The former Tory party leader has insisted he did not break any rules but acknowledged there are “lessons to be learned”, and that as a former prime minister, any contacts with government should be through the “most formal channels”.
The government used its Commons majority this week to defeat an attempt by Labour to force the creation of a new committee of MPs specifically to examine the issues of lobbying and the Greensill controversy.