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12th Mar 2021

Covid-19 test kit supplier joked to Matt Hancock that he’d ‘never heard of him’

Claudia McInerney

Hancock? “Never heard of him”

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced further questions last night about his relationship with the former landlord of his local pub, Alex Bourne, after private WhatsApp messages between the pair from November were leaked.

Bourne, who was given a Government contract worth £30 million to supply the NHS with millions of Covid test kits, joked that he had “never heard” of Matt Hancock in their private message, the Guardian has reported.

The exchange on WhatsApp, seen by the Guardian, shows an obvious familiarity between Hancock and Bourne.

The WhatsApp messages suggest that Bourne may have publicly downplayed the the true extent of his relationship with Hancock.

In one message, the Health Secretary referred to the Guardian as “a rag” when making Bourne aware of the newspaper’s intended story about their connection, to which Bourne responds: “Matt Hancock – never heard of him. We managed to get the chain of events on how we ended up supplying NHS along with supporting evidence that shows you were nothing to do with us.”

Bourne then assured Hancock that his lawyers were “all over” the reporter covering the story about their association “like a tramp on chips”.

Bourne first met the Health Secretary while running Hancock’s local pub in West Suffolk.

Bourne’s manufacturing business, Hinpack, had previously never made medical products, but was contracted by the Government to make test tubes for the NHS Covid tests.

In February, a court ruled that Hancock acted “unlawfully” by failing to publish details of the contracts it had signed throughout the pandemic.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, the Health Secretary said: “We were just over a fortnight late on average with the publication of these things.
“We’ve saved lives. Of course there’s the loose ends that need tidying up. What is most important in the pandemic is that you save lives.”
Hancock said his team were too busy buying a sufficient amount of “life-saving” Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to publish the necessary paperwork on time.