Leaked WhatsApp messages suggest closeness of West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock and ex-publican Alex Bourne
Matt Hancock has come under further scrutiny over his relationship with his former Little Thurlow neighbour after leaked WhatsApp messages.
The health secretary and West Suffolk MP has so far denied he swayed a decision to award NHS supply work to Hinpack, the company of Alex Bourne - former landlord of Mr Hancock’s local pub The Cock Inn.
The WhatsApp messages, published in today’s Guardian, suggest a chumminess between the pair and that Mr Bourne may have downplayed their relationship.
The Guardian stated in November that Hinpack had been selected by the Government to supply millions of medical bottles and cups via a distributor. Mr Hancock was implicated after the two sent messages on WhatsApp on March 30 - although the content of the messages has not been revealed. Both parties have said Mr Hancock only directed Mr Bourne to the health department’s website. Today’s leaked WhatsApp texts show the conversation before the initial article was published, which suggests a friendliness beyond being ‘acquainted’ - a term used by Mr Bourne’s lawyers.
Mr Hancock is said to have typed: “Apparently we are appearing in the Guardian together tomorrow. I am accused of - shock horror - having your phone number.” He added his apologies and finished the message by calling the Guardian a ‘rag’
Mr Bourne replied: “Matt Hancock - never heard of him. We managed to get the chain of events on how we ended up supplying the NHS along with supporting evidence that shows you were nothing to do with us.” He added that his legal team were ‘all over’ the newspaper like ‘a tramp on chips’ - a derogatory expression of a homeless person’s desperation. The Guardian said Mr Bourne's lawyers said their client 'regrets' his choice of language.
Mr Bourne's lawyers have also denied Mr Hancock helped Hinpack get work.
A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "DHSC does not have a contract with Hinpack. As this article states - Mr Bourne was referred to the DHSC website."
Mr Hancock said in a press conference in December: “I had absolutely nothing to do with that contract.”