Peston tells Nadhim Zahawi he’s ‘cutting and running’
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Matthew Hancock, 43, told Robert Peston, 61, he had “no connection” with a £40million contract between the Government and one of his constituents. Mr Peston showed the former Health Secretary an extract of the contract signed with Mr Hancock’s constituent Alex Boune’s company Hinpack Limited.
Peston said: “I’ve seen the contract and it says, in a sub-clause, that Alpha Laboratories would buy all the [inaudible] from Bourne’s business.”
He added: “It is just inconceivable that the Department of Health was not aware that the sub-contract was going to board.”
But the MP for West Suffolk responded by saying: “I had absolutely nothing to do with either that contract.”
Mr Hancock, who entered the Commons in 2010, also argued: “More importantly, the gentleman in question and his company didn’t get a contract with the Department or the NHS.
“They were a sub-contractor and therefore they didn’t have a contractual arrangement with the Department.”
The former Health Secretary, who withdrew from the 2019 Tory leadership race in the second ballot after receiving just 20 endorsements from Conservative MPs, then sought to challenge the notion his actions equated to a “scandal”.
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“I have been told through the media… that somehow there’s been some great scandal here and it’s just not true.”
He added: “More importantly, at that time, do you remember what it was like?
“We were doing everything we possibly could to save lives and all this stuff about contracts.”
Mr Hancock also said the National Audit Office has looked into the incident.
But Labour MP Jess Phillips, 40, was far from impressed by the ex-Health Secretary’s comments.
The MP for Birmingham Yardley, who entered the Commons in 2015, said on Mr Peston’s political programme: “What an absolute load of rubbish.
“Did anyone else’s friends get a contract?
“Mine didn’t, none of my friends are on those lists.”
Ms Phillips, who withdrew from the 2020 Labour leadership race after picking up just 23 nominations in the Commons, also responded to Mr Hancock’s question about remembering what it was like at the time.
“I do remember exactly what it was like,” she explained, “and there are PPE providers in my constituency that had lorries driving in from Italy to take it when I was trying to get through on those lines that were given to Members of Parliament and so I watched lorries take personal protective equipment in lorries out of my constituency while my care homes were ringing me asking if I could go to the local school to borrow goggles.”
A squirming Mr Hancock replied: “The fact that it was hard to get PPE was absolutely right because the whole world was trying to get it and actually on those who got the contracts there were donors to the Labour Party who got those contracts too.”
In response, Ms Phillips claimed: “The owner of that company, in my constituency, was trying to get it into the Government.
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“I was having endless phone calls, we were having those phone calls with the Cabinet Office.
“It’s funny because they were already a provider.
“However, some people’s friends, who weren’t providers, somehow managed to get through the line.”
Viewers also expressed their disappointment with the ex-Health Secretary’s comments.
Glynn Rawle wrote on Twitter: “All this faffing about contracts is just so much eye wash.
“Who trousered the money Robert?”
Dave Heavy added: “Well said, @jessphillips.”
Another user wrote: “The look on Matt Hancock’s face [is] priceless.”
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