Row Breaks Out Over Minister's Charing Cross Visit

Andy Slaughter says hospital misused for political campaigning

Still from a video posted by Greg Hands and Andrew Dismore during the visit
Still from a video posted by Greg Hands and Andrew Dismore during the visit


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November 3, 2023

A row has broken out over a recent ministerial visit to Charing Cross Hospital after Andy Slaughter MP claimed that it constituted party political activity in breach of the rules.

On Monday 23 October, the Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay was joined by Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham and Chairman of the Conservative Party and Andrew Dismore, a Hammersmith and Fulham councillor who has recently been selected to contest the Hammersmith and Chiswick seat against Mr Slaughter.

The trio were given a tour of the facilities by hospital staff and pictures of the visit were also shared on the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) social media channels.

In addition, Mr Hands posted a video from within the hospital introducing Mr Dinsmore as his party’s candidate and saying that Charing Cross has ‘a really, really great future under the Conservatives.”

Mr Slaughter is alleging that this constitutes the use of premises for party political activity which would be wrong in principle and, in his view, may well be unlawful. He has written to the Permanent Secretary at the DHSC and the CEO of the NHS and asked for this to be investigated.

He further contends that using government resources for party political purposes is a breach of the Ministerial Code and he has raised this as a point of order in the House of Commons and with the independent adviser on ministerial interests.

Claims made in the videos that new equipment viewed during the visit was part of the rebuild programme and that the purpose was to discuss further investment were described as false by Mr Slaughter.

The Labour MP said that he had no wish to draw NHS staff into a political controversy, but he checked with them whether they were aware of the nature of the visit.

He received a response from the Chief Executive of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust stating, “I can confirm that we had not given permission for the visit to be used for party political purposes, and indeed, I did not know that Councillor Dinsmore was the prospective parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith until you told me.”

Andrew Dismore tweets about the visit
Andrew Dismore tweets about the visit

In his letter to Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the DHSC, raising his concerns about the matter, he states, “There is a vital point of principle here. As the Labour candidate for the new Hammersmith and Chiswick seat, I would not be permitted to film a video from the outpatient clinics at Charing Cross Hospital castigating the Tory party over rising waiting lists, and if a member of hospital staff posted a video on social media after a busy shift in A&E urging voters to back Labour at the next election, the right wing media would demand disciplinary action against them.”

He continued that the rules should be applied equally to all political parties and that all NHS hospitals should be warned that there is a need to be clear about what content can be published using their facilities as a backdrop.

We have contacted Greg Hands MP for comment.

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