Justin Madders, Labour’s Shadow Heath Minister, has written to the Prime Minister about concerns that Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock may have breached the Ministerial Code by endorsing a private healthcare company in a paid-for newspaper supplement.
Full text of the letter is below:
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to express my sincere concern that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, may be in direct contravention of the Ministerial Code. The foundation for my concern is an advertorial article printed in the Evening Standard on 27th November, entitled Health Secretary Matt Hancock: ‘AI can augment the human factor’ of medicine. This article was published in the Evening Standard’s Future London Health supplement, which has financial support from Babylon.
I am writing to request an urgent investigation into the matter and set out below my reasons:
Sections 7.12 and 7.13 of the Ministerial Code state:
7.12: Ministers should take care to ensure that they do not become associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with Government policy and thus give rise to a conflict of interest.
7.13: Ministers should not therefore normally accept invitations to act as patrons of, or otherwise offer support to, pressure groups, or organisations dependent in whole or in part on Government funding.
In the Evening Standard article, Mr Hancock is quoted as saying “I’ve become known for using this GP at Hand app.” I believe this admission places Mr Hancock in contravention of Section 7.12 of the Ministerial Code. This is because promoting pay-for-access health products, which Mr Hancock’s comments would appear to amount to, subverts the objective and principles of a National Health Service, free at the point of use and open to all regardless of means.
Moreover, GP at Hand is an app created and provided by a private healthcare company called Babylon Health, run by Conservative Party associate Ali Parsa. I consequently believe Mr Hancock’s endorsement of the GP at Hand app is in direct breach of Section 7.13 of the Ministerial Code, because Babylon Healthcare is in part reliant on Government funding and Mr Hancock is promoting a product created by this firm.
In addition, Babylon Healthcare appears to have links with offshore companies. This is because until April 2016 it was owned by Babylon Holdings based in Jersey, but has now been restructured and is owned by Old Mutual PLC which is part of a network of companies- some of which are named in the Paradise Papers. With respect to Section 7.12 of the Ministerial Code, I’m sure you share my concern that promoting a firm with links to offshore companies is in breach of Government policy.
Finally, Section 7.20 of the Ministerial code states:
7.20: It is a well established and recognised rule that no Minister should accept gifts, hospitality or services from anyone which would, or might appear to, place him or her under an obligation. The same principle applies if gifts etc are offered to a member of their family.
Would you please investigate whether the Rt Hon Matt Hancock received any form of gift, hospitality or payment for being interviewed for this newspaper advertorial?
Justin Madders MP
Member of Parliament for Ellesmere Port and Neston
Shadow Health Minister