A company run by the former landlord of Matt Hancock’s local pub which won a contract to produce Covid test vials for the NHS is under investigation by the UK’s medical regulator.
Hinpack, which is owned by Alex Bourne, an acquaintance of the health secretary, switched from making food cartons to plastic tubes and secured a lucrative contract with the health service last spring as the government rushed to hand out contracts during the first wave of the pandemic.
Graeme Tunbridge, director of devices at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said: “We are currently investigating the allegations about Hinpack and will take appropriate action as necessary.
“We take all reports of non-compliance very seriously. Patient safety is our top priority.
“As this is an ongoing investigation we are unable to disclose further information at this time.”
According to The Guardian, the probe was initiated after officials from the local South Cambridgeshire council received reports relating to hygiene and safety standards.
The Independent attempted to obtain comment from Hinpack. Lawyers for Mr Bourne told The Guardian he had not been contacted by the MHRA and was not aware of any investigation.
Mr Bourne at one time owned The Cock Inn in Thurlow, near Cambridge, and reportedly got to know Mr Hancock when the MP lived close by.
Last year it was widely reported that Mr Bourne had messaged the health secretary to offer his company’s services after obtaining Mr Hancock’s number from a mutual friend.
Hinpack went on to secure multi-million pound contracts for products linked to the pandemic, including supplying two million medical grade test tubes a week to the NHS.
Mr Bourne has previously acknowledged exchanging WhatsApp messages with the health secretary – but has denied any impropriety.
The health secretary also appeared to deflect responsibility onto his officials, after a judge said the secrecy “breached legal obligations” over the spending of billions of taxpayers’ money.
Asked if he would resign, Mr Hancock replied: “No” – arguing it was “not true” to say he had refused to publish contracts, some of which went to friends of senior Tories.