The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock committed a “minor breach” of the ministerial code governing MPs behaviour after a government contract was given to his sister during the pandemic, a report on the issue has found.
Hancock’s blunder was only in “technical terms,” Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, said in his report published on Friday, adding that the secretary had acted with “integrity throughout.”
Geidt was investigating Hancock over his 20% stake in Topwood Ltd, a company run by his sister and brother-in-law.
The firm, which securely disposes of documents, had been approved as a supplier to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) prior to the pandemic, and this year received a contract from NHS Wales worth £300,000 ($425,000).
However, Hancock only declared his shares in the company in March, prompting allegations from the opposition Labour party that the awarding of contracts to the firm was a sign of a government “infected with widespread cronyism.”
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Geidt said the health secretary’s “earlier failure to declare the interest was as a result of his lack of knowledge and in no way deliberate, and therefore, in technical terms, a minor breach of the Ministerial Code.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Hancock will not face any further action over the breach.
Johnson also featured in Geidt’s investigations, following a swirl of claims that a donor from his ruling Conservative Party had paid for a £200,000 ($283,000) refurbishment of his official Downing Street residence.
The PM acted “unwisely” in his handling of the makeover by not ensuring he knew the sources of its funding before the refurbishment started, but did not break the code, Geidt found.
As prime minister, Johnson is the arbiter of the code, which sets out how ministers behave and the standards expected of them.
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