Labour demands sleaze inquiry into Matt Hancock ‘promotion’ of healthcare firm

Labour are demanding a Downing Street sleaze investigation into claims that  Matt Hancock promoted a healthcare firm whose shareholders donated thousands of pounds to the Conservative party and to the health secretary personally.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, wrote to Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser Christopher Geidt asking him to open an inquiry into what she claimed was an instance of “contempt” of the rules on ministers’ conduct.

Ms Rayner said that Mr Hancock had “repeatedly endorsed” Babylon Healthcare publicly without declaring that one of the firm’s investors had given £200,000 to the Tories, while another gave £10,000 to his campaign for the Tory leadership in 2019.

Meanwhile, Ms Rayner said that the health secretary had appointed a third Babylon shareholder as a government adviser in 2018.

Founded in 2013, Babylon is a start-up that offers smartphone-based NHS GP consultations and symptom-checker services

Ms Rayner wrote: “Shortly after he became health secretary, Mr Hancock said that he himself used Babylon’s products and wanted to ‘see [Babylon’s GP at Hand app] available to all’.

“The health secretary also attended an event to mark Babylon receiving a $100m investment in a clear endorsement of the company, and again endorsed Babylon’s services in a paid-for sponsored advertorial supplement in a newspaper.”

She asked: “Why has the health secretary been hawking the wares of a private healthcare company without declaring that the firm’s shareholders have made significant donations both to the Conservative party and to himself personally when promoting this company?” Mr Hancock was last month found by Lord Geidt to have breached the ministerial code in relation to his 20 per cent holding in a company owned by his sister which won NHS contracts.

Ms Rayner said: “Yet again, the health secretary has shown his contempt for the rules and made a mockery of the ministerial code system.

“His job is protecting and standing up for the National Health Service, not shilling for private healthcare companies that bankroll his leadership campaign and fill Conservative party coffers with cash.”

The Independent has contacted the Department of Health and Babylon Healthcare for comment.

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