This is astonishing. Johnson was clearly indifferent as to how a project was to funded, appears not to have asked how costs might be paid, had to use borrowed funds, and forgot to declare this for a long time and yet the code was not broken.
The difference being that at least Johnson knew what it was to be spent upon.
More astonishing was the opinion on Matt Hancock. He had a significant interest in a company run by his sister that secured a VIP NHS contract and apparently this breach was ‘technical’.
Let’s put this in context. As a chartered accountant I know the rules on conflicts of interest for my profession. I know that the penalties for beaching them are severe, appropriate and enforced. Hancock must know that that similar rules applied to ministers.
He breached them, in my opinion. Geidt described the breach as ‘technical’. Of course it was. All such breaches are ‘technical’ because the rules are ‘technical’. That means every breach is ‘technical’ and they should carry sanction. But not for Hancock, apparently.
And that’s a certain – umm, elision perhaps – of the facts.
Matt Hancock’s sister and brother in law had a company. Which qualified as an NHS supplier. At this point Hancock himself had no interest in it. Possibly – possibly – no knowledge even.
No declaration made.
Then Hancock takes a 20% stake. Which he promptly declares.
This company then gains an NHS Wales contract – NHS Wales not being something that Hancock has any control or oversight over, it’s a separate system.
BTW, no, this is not part of selling the NHS to Americans etc. The contract is for secure document shredding – not something we’d expect even our Glorious NHS to gear up to do in-house.
So here’s a fun question. Is this more or less of a “technical” breach of the rules than someone utilising a tax break – say, paying tiny salaries then distributing profits as dividends in order to avoid NI taxation – while denouncing the same tax break in a paid report for the TUC?
I suppose that Hancock is more in the wrong here as there are no conflicts of interest – or even basic strictures on not being a raging hypocrite – rules on writing reports for the TUC.