A senior Tory MP is under investigation by a parliamentary watchdog after allegations he lobbied the head of the NHS on behalf of a firm he received money from.
Steve Brine, who is chair of the health select committee, is facing a standards committee probe for alleged breaches of the “paid advocacy” and “declaration of an interest” rules.
WhatsApp messages leaked to the Daily Telegraph had suggested the MP lobbied the head of the NHS in England on behalf of a firm paying him £1,600 a month during the pandemic.
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The MP said in a text to Michael Gove that he had been “trying for months” to convince the health service to hire anaesthetists through Remedium, a recruitment company he worked for.
Advocacy rules set by parliament state MPs are not allowed to lobby for an organisation from which they are receiving “a reward” for six months after receiving a payment.
It was a breach of this which led to the resignation of former Tory minister Owen Paterson in 2021, in a sleaze scandal that marked the beginning of the end of Boris Johnson’s administration.
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Mr Brine was referred to the parliamentary standard’s commissioner over the issue by Anneliese Dodds, the chairman of the Labour Party.
The Lib Dems called for the former minister to step down from his position as committee chair, calling the claims “yet another Conservative scandal”.
According to the Telegraph, Mr Brine contacted Michael Gove – then the Cabinet Office minister – in early 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, seeking his help after he had tried to raise the issue with NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.
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He reportedly wrote: “Dear Michael … sorry to raise this but having tried the Dept of Health (seemed logical) and the Chief Exec of NHSE (ditto) I am at a loss.
“Long story short, I have been trying for months to help the NHS through a company I am connected with – called ‘Remedium’.
“They have 50 anaesthetists right now who can be in the country and on the ground in the NHS if someone only said let’s us help. They just want to assist and asked me how they might.
“Despite offering this to health and to Simon Stevens I’ve had nothing despite SS telling the press conference last week this is an acute problem, despite the PM telling the Liaison Committee this is his biggest problem etc etc.
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“How might I progress this or does the NHS just not need the help?”
On February 2, Mr Gove forwarded the message to Matt Hancock, then the health secretary, who replied: “Weird – he hasn’t texted me”. He added a short time later: “This is already in hand. Thanks for pinging on”.
The exchanges were among more than 100,000 messages leaked by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who was given them by Mr Hancock while they were collaborating on his memoir.
In response, Mr Brine told the Telegraph: “This was about responding in the national interest to an urgent public call from ministers and the NHS in a national crisis even if, ultimately, it led nowhere let alone secure any business for Remedium.”
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