Today’s daily politics briefing
Labour has accused Matt Hancock of appearing to breach the ministerial code, after it emerged that the health secretary was given a 20 per cent share in a company owned by his sister shortly before it won a lucrative NHS contract.
Topwood Ltd of Wrexham, a document-shredding firm, was awarded a three-year contract – reportedly worth £300,000 – by NHS Wales. A government spokesperson said Mr Hancock had “acted entirely properly in these circumstances”, adding that there was “no conflict of interest”.
Meanwhile, the government’s lobbying scandal is showing no signs of abating, after it was revealed that a second Cabinet Office adviser also worked for the now-collapsed lender Greensill, which went on to employ David Cameron as a lobbyist.
And Whitehall’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, announced on Friday that it was investigating Greensill Capital’s involvement in the government’s Covid-19 support schemes – including the accreditation process by which the now-defunct firm was authorised to issue vast government-backed loans.
This comes after Eric Pickles, head of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, said on Thursday that there were no “boundaries” between Whitehall and the private sector, as Labour’s shadow minister Rachel Reeves accused the government of not doing enough to keep cronyism “in check”.
Morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling UK politics coverage.
Rory Sullivan16 April 2021 07:39
Hancock given shares in family firm that won lucrative NHS contract
Matt Hancock was awarded a 20 per cent share in his sister’s document-shredding company, shortly before it won a £150,000 contract with NHS Wales.
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.”
Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:
Rory Sullivan16 April 2021 07:42
Cameron lobbying scandal deepens
The government’s lobbying scandal has deepened, after it emerged that a second Cabinet Office adviser was also employed by the disgraced lender Greensill.
Just like Bill Crothers, David Brierwood combined roles in the public and private sectors, joining Greensill in December 2014, just two months after he was brought into government as a crown representative.
The revelation comes after the cronyism watchdog Eric Pickles said there were “no boundaries” in place between Whitehall and the private sector.
In response to the new finding, Rachel Reeves, the shadow cabinet office minister, accused the Tories of weakening “measures meant to keep cronyism and conflicts of interest in government in check”.
Rory Sullivan16 April 2021 07:57
Greensill lobbying row shows ‘urgent’ need for reform
The head of a Whitehall watchdog has said the Greensill lobbying scandal shows the “urgent” need to reform the relationship between government and the private sector.
Lord Pickles, who heads the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), told politicians on Thursday that he had not come across something like the Greensill case before.
“I’ve been involved in public life for a long time and I have never really come across anything like this before,” he said, referring to the fact that Bill Crothers worked for both the government and Greensill simultaneously.
He told MPs: “I think part of the problem we’ve got is just not being clear where the boundaries lay. In fact…there doesn’t seem to have been any boundaries.”
Rory Sullivan16 April 2021 08:19
SNP unveils ‘transformational’ manifesto
Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled her party’s “transformational” manifesto, saying it would introduce bolder policies if Scotland became independent.
In the short term, the SNP leader said an extra £2.5bn would be spent on the NHS in the next five years and £800m on social care funding if it wins in the 6 May election.
The first minister also promised that income tax would be frozen and dentistry charges would be scrapped.