Tory chair of health committee being investigated over NHS lobbying claims

The Conservative MP who chairs the Commons health and social care committee is under investigation over allegations he lobbied the NHS and ministers on behalf of a recruitment firm that employed him.

Steve Brine, a former health minister, was put under investigation by parliament’s standards commissioner over “paid advocacy and declaration of an interest”.

It comes after messages leaked to the Telegraph as part of its “lockdown files” investigation showed Brine had contacted the cabinet minister Michael Gove about an offer from the recruitment company Remedium to supply anaesthetists in early 2021.

The message said: “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.”

Gove passed the message on to Matt Hancock, the then health secretary, with further leaked WhatsApp messages showing that a special adviser in the health department said he was trying to help Brine and that the team were “sorting it”.

“Steve’s being a nob right now and I’ve no idea why. Been chasing my tail trying to sort loads of stuff for him (not least his hospital) and he still acts like this,” the adviser told Hancock.

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Brine was employed by Remedium as an ad hoc consultant being paid £800 a day from September 2019 to February 2020; then from July 2020 he began being paid £1,600 for eight hours’ work each month, which continued until the end of December 2021.

Under parliament’s rules, MPs are not allowed to lobby for any organisation they are being paid by for six months after their last remuneration. It was a breach of this ban on paid lobbying that led to the resignation of the former Tory minister Owen Paterson in 2021.

Of the messages, 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 [to] secure any business for Remedium.”

Brine has been contacted for comment.

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Anneliese Dodds, the chair of the Labour party, referred the matter to the standards commissioner. She said the “public are rightly sick of this constant slew of Conservative sleaze”. She added: “These are very serious allegations and the commissioner must be given space to thoroughly and independently investigate.”

The Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Daisy Cooper, has called on Brine to “immediately step down” from the health committee while the investigation takes place.

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