Matt Hancock’s ex-neighbour under investigation by UK’s medical regulator | Politics

The former publican and neighbour of Matt Hancock who secured profitable work producing tens of millions of vials for NHS Covid assessments is under investigation by the UK’s medical regulator, the Guardian can reveal.

Alex Bourne, who used to run the Cock Inn close to the well being secretary’s outdated constituency residence in Thurlow, received about £30m of labor producing the take a look at tubes regardless of having no prior expertise within the medical gadgets business.

Prior to the pandemic, his company, Hinpack, made plastic cups and takeaway bins for the catering business. Now it provides tens of tens of millions of vials from its manufacturing website on an industrial potato farm advanced in Cambridgeshire.

The Medicines and Healthcare merchandise Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed it has launched an investigation into Bourne’s company. “We take all reports of non-compliance very seriously,” mentioned Graeme Tunbridge, director of gadgets on the MHRA. “We are currently investigating allegations about Hinpack and will take appropriate action as necessary. Patient safety is our top priority.”

The Guardian understands the MHRA investigation was launched after officers from the native South Cambridgeshire council handed on some issues reported to them about hygiene and security requirements across the finish of January. Through his attorneys, Bourne mentioned he was unaware of any MHRA investigation and had not been contacted by the regulator.

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Bourne made headlines final year after the Guardian revealed that he had provided his providers to answer the pandemic by way of a personal WhatsApp message despatched to Hancock, whom he had identified for a number of years.

Bourne and his spouse beforehand ran the village pub in Thurlow, just a few hundred yards from Hancock’s former constituency residence. The Conservative cupboard minister was a supporter of the pub, attending its reopening after refurbishment in 2016 and nominating it for an award in 2017.

Contacted again in November, Bourne’s attorneys initially denied that their shopper had any discussions with Hancock in relation to Covid-19 provides. Bourne later backtracked, telling the Guardian he had in actual fact exchanged textual content and e-mail messages with Hancock over a number of months.

However, he categorically denied that he profited from his personal contact with Hancock and the DHSC mentioned “there is no evidence” to assist claims he acquired preferential remedy.

Bourne’s company provides take a look at tubes by way of a big distributor of medical merchandise that has contracts with the DHSC.

His attorneys mentioned beforehand that whereas he had no expertise within the highly-regulated medical provides business, he was concerned a companion company that did have related expertise and employed certified consultants. They burdened that the medical gadgets that Hinpack manufactures are “by no means complicated and are well within our client’s existing skillset”.

However, the MHRA investigation and data offered to the Guardian by well-placed sources increase questions on whether or not he’s upholding acceptable regulatory requirements.

Bourne created his medical-grade processing amenities, putting in inflatable “clean rooms”, in a constructing on an industrial farm owned by his father-in-law Robert Smith, one of many main potato suppliers to supermarkets.

According to allegations from sources, there was a interval of months early within the operation when Hinpack manufacturing employees had no everlasting bogs or entry to operating water for hand washing.

Workers have been additionally accused of failing to comply with strict hygiene protocols when coming into the inflatable rooms, in response to the sources, and failing to alter out and in of protecting clothes correctly when taking breaks. For a interval, employees have been utilizing out of doors moveable bogs with out hand-washing amenities, the sources added.

Bourne’s attorneys mentioned all of those allegations have been “untrue” and recommended they could have been made maliciously. They insisted that coveralls are at all times appropriately discarded, and operating water and bathroom amenities have been accessible to workers, who have been made totally conscious of strict hygiene protocols.

The attorneys added that the MHRA had beforehand accredited and inspected Hinpack’s merchandise and dealing practices.

Another criticism pertains to the burning of waste. A supply with direct information of Hinpack’s operations mentioned that waste was repeatedly burned by the company final autumn.

In October, throughout an unconnected go to to a different a part of the farm website, the Environment Agency (EA) recorded proof of burning of waste by Hinpack. It issued steerage to Bourne however mentioned it might not take additional motion except it occurred once more.

In November, residents reported additional burning of waste on the website. The EA mentioned the this report didn’t include sufficient particulars to establish the company accountable.

However, Bourne’s father-in-law later wrote to residents to handle the problem of “burning of rubbish”.

In the letter, he defined that his son-in-law had initially looked for different manufacturing websites and “literally begged me to move into our buildings as no alternative could be found … Alex has assured me no burning of rubbish will take place on the site in the future.”

Bourne’s attorneys mentioned the report about burning business waste in November was unfaithful and recommended it was the results of a malicious criticism.

Meanwhile, a neighborhood Thriplow councillor, Conservative Richard Williams, has requested South Cambridgeshire council to analyze whether or not breaches of planning rules have been dedicated on the website.

There is a dispute over whether or not new consent is required for sure buildings and buildings on the location, however Bourne’s attorneys concede that a carpark used by Hinpack shift employees requires planning permission. They added they have been within the strategy of making use of for it.

Asked about Bourne’s work producing vials at a Downing Street press convention in December, Hancock replied: “I had absolutely nothing to do with that contract.”

But questions stay in regards to the relationship between the 2 males. Locals have described Bourne and Hancock as “friends” and “buddies”. The DHSC mentioned it might not touch upon “the secretary of state’s personal relationships” and Bourne has performed down his relationship with Hancock.

Earlier this month a picture went viral after it appeared to indicate that Hancock has a photograph of Bourne’s outdated pub on the wall behind him in a room at his residence from which he typically provides stay TV interviews.

Matt Hancock giving a TV interview, with {a photograph} of the Cock Inn on his wall. Composite: Handouts

It has additionally emerged {that a} member of the owner household of Hancock’s former constituency residence, the Vesteys, had lately purchased a home from Bourne in London.

Hancock claimed lease for his use of the Vestey household’s Thurlow home – just a few hundred yards from the Cock Inn – in his MP’s bills for the years throughout which he rented it. Robin Vestey purchased the £1.2m London home from Bourne and his spouse’s household final November. There is not any suggestion of any wrongdoing.

Lawyers for Bourne mentioned the Vestey buy of the London home arose just because Vestey lived close by and appreciated it. They mentioned Vestey was not concerned in Bourne’s Covid-related tasks. Vestey didn’t reply to a request for remark.

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