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Matt Hancock urged to ‘set record straight’ over pub landlord’s NHS Covid contract

Matt Hancock urged to ‘set record straight’ over pub landlord’s NHS Covid contract
‘No matter how hard they look or how deep they dig all that will be discovered is a lot of people working hard to save lives,’ says former health secretary

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has faced further questions over the involvement of the former landlord of his local pub in a multimillion-pound coronavirus contract.

Mr Hancock, who quit the front bench after breaching social distancing guidance by kissing a colleague, protested his innocence on Wednesday when pressed on the matter by Labour.

The Conservative MP told the opposition “no matter how hard they look or how deep they dig” they will only find “a lot of people working hard to save lives”.

His defence came after the Labour Party chairwoman, Anneliese Dodds, had insisted Mr Hancock should “set the record straight” and withdraw his remark that it was a “fabrication” to suggest his friend and West Suffolk constituent Alex Bourne applied for or received a contract from the government or NHS.

Questions have been repeatedly raised about Mr Hancock’s involvement in helping Mr Bourne obtain a lucrative contract to supply test tubes for NHS Covid-19 testing.

The Mail on Sunday, following a contested Freedom of Information request, obtained messages between Mr Hancock and Mr Bourne in which the MP personally referred a plea for business to Jonathan Marron, at the time the director-general of community and social care at the Department of Health.

A message from Mr Bourne, who runs a food packaging company, initially raised the possibility of making personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical face masks, before later exchanges reveal a switch to producing items involved in coronavirus testing.

Mr Bourne at one time owned The Cock Inn in Thurlow, near Cambridge, and reportedly got to know Mr Hancock when the MP lived close by.

Ms Dodds told the Commons: “The Good Law Project has published evidence indicating that a company, Alpha Laboratories, won a contract worth over £40m from the Department of Health and Social Care in December 2020, and that this company appears to have sub-contracted all of the manufacturing of goods to another company, Hinpack Limited, which appears to be run by (Mr Hancock’s) constituent.”

Mr Hancock replied: “This point of order and the point made in it demonstrates very clearly that there was no contract between the firm being discussed and the department or the NHS.

”Of course, the Department of Health and the NHS does not have a say in sub-contracting arrangements.

“So what this has done is demonstrated finally and for the record that there was no such contract between my constituent and the department or NHS.

”All of this has been looked at by the National Audit Office, who found all to have been done in an orderly way.

“Finally, no matter how hard they look or how deep they dig all that will be discovered is a lot of people working hard to save lives. That’s what was going on.”

On Tuesday, Mr Hancock had told Ms Dodds: “I have heard this point about this pub landlord and I just want to tell her and the House, and put it formally on the record, and after this I hope the Labour Party will also stop this slur, that the man in question never got nor applied for a contract from the Government or the NHS at all.

”It is a fabrication pushed by the Labour Party. It’s a load of rubbish.“

Additional reporting by PA