Angela Rayner has written to No10’s ethics advisor after he found the Health Secretary committed a “minor breach” of the ministerial code over his sister’s firm
Labour tonight made a formal complaint over Matt Hancock’s failure to resign after a watchdog found he committed a “minor breach” of the Ministerial Code.
Angela Rayner claimed it was an “blatant and glaring conflict of interest” when Topwood Ltd, run by the Health Secretary’s sister and brother-in law, won an NHS framework contract to be a potential supplier in 2019.
An ethics report on Friday found Mr Hancock should have declared his links to the shredding firm at the time – but he did not, because he did not know it had won the NHS contract.
Separately, he did later “promptly” declare a 20% stake he took in the firm, the watchdog found.
Despite finding he breached the Ministerial Code, No10’s new ethics advisor Lord Geidt said the breach was only “minor” and wrote: “Mr Hancock has acted with integrity throughout and this event should in no way impugn his good character or ministerial record.”
Labour ’s deputy leader has now written to Lord Geidt to raise her concerns – saying the suggestion Mr Hancock did not need to quit “sets a very concerning precedent that the rules don’t apply equally”.
She added Mr Hancock’s failure to resign “sends a very clear message that the rules don’t apply to Cabinet Ministers, therefore damaging public trust in our politics, fundamentally weakening the Ministerial Code system and giving carte blanche to other Ministers to break the Ministerial Code safe in the knowledge that they will not face sanctions”.
Ms Rayner asked Lord Geidt what sanctions are appropriate, adding: “In this case, the Prime Minister has clearly decided that the matter is closed and that no action will be taken, yet again damaging the integrity of the Ministerial Code system and undermining ethics and standards in our public life.”
It comes after the watchdog ruled Mr Hancock committed a “minor” breach of the Ministerial Code after his sister’s company was awarded an NHS contract.
Wrexham-based Topwood Ltd was given a place on the Shared Business Services framework as a potential supplier for local NHS trusts in February 2019, seven months after Mr Hancock became Health Secretary.
Lord Geidt ruled: “I believe there to be a danger that a reasonable person might perceive this link to represent a conflict of interest, and that it should have been declared at the time.”
But he added the failure to declare the interest was due to Mr Hancock’s “lack of knowledge”. And in his foreword, he wrote: “I am conscious that it has become commonplace to assume that any proven breach of the Ministerial Code should lead to a Minister’s resignation or dismissal… this is disproportionate.”
A spokesman for the Health Secretary said on Friday: “The Health Secretary thanks Lord Geidt for his work.
“He is glad that the shareholding in question is found to have been declared diligently and that Lord Geidt assesses him to have acted properly and honestly.
“He agrees that any perceived breach could only be technical in nature and accepts his advice.”