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AN ACQUAINTANCE and former neighbour of Health Secretary Matt Hancock has won a contract to produce millions of vials for Covid-19 tests despite having no experience in medical supplies.
Alex Bourne, who used to run a pub called the Cock Inn close to Mr Hancock’s former constituency home in Suffolk, said that he had initially offered his services several months ago by sending the Health Secretary a personal message on WhatsApp, it was revealed today.
His company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. It is now supplying around two million medical-grade glass vials a week to the government via a distributor contracted by the NHS.
The news will further fuel accusations of government cronyism during the pandemic, following previous revelations of contracts being awarded to companies run by people with close links to the Tories.
Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke described the award of the work to Mr Bourne as “sickening.”
He had categorically rejected allegations that he had profited from his personal contact with Mr Hancock.
According to the Guardian, Mr Bourne’s lawyers denied that he had had any discussions with Mr Hancock about Covid-19 supplies. But Mr Bourne later backtracked when confronted with further details of his interactions with the Health Secretary.
Mr Bourne conceded that he had exchanged text messages and emails with Mr Hancock over several months, with the first WhatsApp message sent on March 30, the newspaper reported.
He also participated in an industry Zoom meeting in August attended by Mr Hancock, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several dozen suppliers in the Covid test-and-trace programme.
Mr Bourne and his wife ran the Cock Inn in the village of Thurlow until the end of 2017, when they leased it out. It stands a few hundred yards from Mr Hancock’s former constituency home.
Mr Hancock attended the pub’s reopening after a refurbishment in 2016 and nominated it for an award the following year. Mr Hancock, who moved in 2018, also posted a photo of himself pulling a pint with Mr Bourne on his parliamentary website.
A Suffolk local and friend of Mr Bourne’s, Sukhvinder Dhat, claimed that the two men were “friends” and “buddies.”
Mr Bourne’s lawyers denied that, telling the Guardian that he does not now have a “close personal connection” with Mr Hancock.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We do not comment on the secretary of state’s personal relationships.”
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