The former publican and neighbour of Matt Hancock who protected rewarding work producing countless vials for NHS Covid tests is under examination by the UK’s medication firm, the Guardian can expose.
Alex Bourne, who used to run the Dick Inn near the health secretary’s old constituency house in Thurlow, won about ₤ 30m of work producing the test tubes despite having no prior experience in the medical gadgets industry.
Prior to the pandemic, his company, Hinpack, made plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. Now it provides tens of millions of vials from its production website on a commercial potato farm complex in Cambridgeshire.
Matt Hancock acted unlawfully by stopping working to release Covid contracts
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Firm (MHRA) confirmed it has launched an investigation into Bourne’s business. “We take all reports of non-compliance extremely seriously,” said Graeme Tunbridge, director of devices at the MHRA. “We are currently investigating accusations about Hinpack and will take proper action as essential. Patient security is our leading priority.”
The Guardian comprehends the MHRA examination was introduced after officers from the regional South Cambridgeshire council handed down some concerns reported to them about health and security requirements around completion of January. Through his attorneys, Bourne stated he was uninformed of any MHRA investigation and had actually not been contacted by the regulator.
Bourne made headlines last year after the Guardian revealed that he had actually used his services to react to the pandemic through an individual WhatsApp message sent to Hancock, whom he had known for numerous years.
Bourne and his spouse formerly ran the town club in Thurlow, a few hundred lawns from Hancock’s previous constituency home. The Conservative cabinet minister was an advocate of the pub, attending its reopening after refurbishment in 2016 and choosing it for an award in 2017.
Gotten in touch with back in November, Bourne’s lawyers at first denied that their customer had any conversations with Hancock in relation to Covid-19 products. Bourne later backtracked, informing the Guardian he had in truth exchanged text and e-mail messages with Hancock over numerous months.
Nevertheless, he unconditionally rejected that he profited from his individual contact with Hancock and the DHSC stated “there is no evidence” to support claims he got favoritism.
Matt Hancock under pressure to discuss ₤ 30m test tube work for ex-neighbour
Find out more
Bourne’s business supplies test tubes by means of a large distributor of medical items that has contracts with the DHSC.
His lawyers said formerly that while he had no experience in the highly-regulated medical materials industry, he involved a partner business that did have appropriate experience and employed qualified professionals. They said that the medical devices that Hinpack manufactures are “by no means made complex and are well within our customer’s existing skillset”.
However, the MHRA examination and info provided to the Guardian by well-placed sources raise questions about whether he is maintaining proper regulative standards.
Bourne created his medical-grade processing centers, setting up inflatable “tidy rooms”, in a building on an industrial farm owned by his father-in-law Robert Smith, among the leading potato providers to supermarkets.
According to accusations from sources, there was a duration of months early in the operation when Hinpack production employees had no permanent toilets or access to running water for hand cleaning.
Workers were also implicated of failing to follow rigorous health procedures when going into the inflatable rooms, according to the sources, and stopping working to change in and out of protective clothes correctly when taking breaks. For a period, workers were using outside portable toilets without hand-washing centers, the sources included.
Bourne’s attorneys stated all of these allegations were “untrue” and suggested they may have been made maliciously. They firmly insisted that coveralls are always appropriately disposed of, and running water and toilet facilities were readily available to personnel, who were made totally aware of strict health procedures.
Exposed: Cummings’ role in handing Covid contract to company run by ‘buddies’
The attorneys included that the MHRA had actually previously approved and checked Hinpack’s items and working practices.
Another complaint associates with the burning of waste. A source with direct knowledge of Hinpack’s operations stated that waste was repeatedly burned by the company last fall.
In October, throughout an unconnected visit to another part of the farm website, the Environment Firm (EA) recorded proof of burning of waste by Hinpack. It issued guidance to Bourne but said it would not take more action unless it took place again.
In November, homeowners reported additional burning of waste at the site. The EA said the this report did not consist of enough details to identify the company accountable.
Nevertheless, Bourne’s father-in-law later on composed to residents to attend to the problem of “burning of rubbish”.
In the letter, he explained that his son-in-law had actually initially searched for other production websites and “actually asked me to move into our structures as no alternative could be discovered … Alex has ensured me no burning of rubbish will occur on the website in the future.”
Bourne’s legal representatives stated the report about burning commercial waste in November was false and suggested it was the result of a harmful complaint.
Covid agreements: why are courts required for public to get the answer?
Meanwhile, a regional Thriplow councillor, Conservative Richard Williams, has actually asked South Cambridgeshire council to examine whether breaches of planning guidelines have been devoted at the website.
There is a dispute over whether new permission is required for particular structures and structures on the site, however Bourne’s legal representatives yield that a parking area utilized by Hinpack shift workers needs preparing permission. They added they remained in the process of getting it.
Asked about Bourne’s work producing vials at a Downing Street press conference in December, Hancock replied: “I had absolutely nothing to do with that contract.”
But concerns stay about the relationship in between the two men. Residents have actually described Bourne and Hancock as “friends” and “buddies”. The DHSC said it would not discuss “the secretary of state’s individual relationships” and Bourne has actually soft-pedaled his relationship with Hancock.
Previously this month an image went viral after it appeared to show that Hancock has a photo of Bourne’s old pub on the wall behind him in a room at his home from which he often gives live TV interviews.
It has likewise emerged that a member of the property manager family of Hancock’s previous constituency home, the Vesteys, had recently bought a house from Bourne in London.
Hancock claimed rent for his use of the Vestey household’s Thurlow house– a few hundred lawns from the Cock Inn– in his MP’s expenditures for the years throughout which he leased it. Robin Vestey bought the ₤ 1.2 m London home from Bourne and his other half’s family last November. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing.
Attorneys for Bourne stated the Vestey purchase of the London home developed simply due to the fact that Vestey lived nearby and liked it. They said Vestey was not involved in Bourne’s Covid-related projects. Vestey did not respond to a request for remark.