Two senior Welsh Labour MPs hosted Parliamentary events for a private health lobbying firm shortly after their own party had criticised the Conservatives for links with the same company.
Caerphilly MP Wayne David and Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty sponsored separate House of Commons receptions for Incisive Health, which was founded by a former Conservative special adviser behind privatisation legislation and has lobbied on behalf of health privateers like Virgin Care and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer.
The event sponsored by David on “tackling the UK’s liver crisis” took place last February, while the reception sponsored by Doughty on “improving mental health for people living with HIV” took place last March.
The events came just months after Labour’s shadow health secretary for England, Jonathan Ashworth, had publicly blasted the Conservatives over their relationship with healthcare privateers including Incisive Health’s co-founder Bill Morgan.
Bill Morgan was included on the Daily Mirror’s list of a “dirty dozen” private health lobbyists with links to the Conservatives which the paper said would “prove once and for all that the Conservatives do not believe in the NHS.
Morgan earned his place on the list for serving as special advisor to Andrew Lansley, who was England’s Health Secretary when the UK Government passed the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which the British Medical Association says caused the NHS in England to be “forced down a route of increased marketisation and privatisation.”
Morgan has been described “as one of the authors of the NHS reforms.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary for England said the list featuring Morgan “shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Tories simply don’t believe in the NHS and its future as a public universal free service is at stake”.
“The revolving door between the Tories and the private health industry stinks,” Ashworth added.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of either MP, but their decision to host events for Incisive Health leaves their party open to accusations of hypocrisy following the strong line taken by Labour over the Conservatives’ links to the firm.
However, a spokesperson for the All Party Parliamentary Group HIV/AIDS said that the event sponsored by Stephen Doughty was an important one.
“It is a shame after a crucial week for awareness of the fight against HIV in Wales and across the UK for this event to have been so mischaracterised,” they said.
“This event was in fact the launch of a major report by the All Party Parliamentary Group HIV/AIDS comprised of parliamentarians from across the political spectrum – on the crucial issue of HIV and mental health, including the experience of children and young people – which challenged the UK Government.
“The launch was attended by leading HIV/AIDS activists, clinicians and HIV and mental health organisations and featured an inspiring and award-winning performance from the Children’s HIV Association, called ‘Life Growing Up’ which depicts the real-life stories of young people who have grown up living with HIV.
“Sponsorships, partnerships or donations to the APPG are declared as required, and the group has operated independently for decades without fear or favour, including challenging pharmaceutical companies, governments and others for decades in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”
Incisive Health also represents Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche, which last year became embroiled in a row with the Welsh Government over a collapsed deal for 5,000 coronavirus tests.
David and Doughty aren’t the only Labour figures to face scrutiny over their links to Incisive Health recently.
Labour leader Keir Starmer was criticised for appointing Benn Nunn, a former associate director of Incisive Health, as his director of communications.
“If the NHS is so important to you, why did you appoint Ben Nunn, a former private healthcare lobbyist, as your Director of comms?” wrote Dr Ben White on Twitter.
Nunn had previously worked on Owen Smith’s campaign to become Labour leader. Smith was himself a Pfizer lobbyist before becoming an MP and recently returned to the industry as head of UK Government relations for pharmaceuticals firm Myers Squibb.