A FORMER trade minister and MP for Meon Valley has denied claims the Conservative Party is looking to 'sell off' the NHS and said it was 'ludicrous' to link allegations to his decision to withdraw from the upcoming election.
Sir George Hollingbery, who had served as Tory MP in the area since 2010, explained a visit to the US during his time as trade minister last year was part of his job to 'reassure' companies in the UK about what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It comes as national newspapers revealed Sir George met Bill Reid, the senior director of public policy at pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly, in Indianapolis last year where they discussed pricing controls.
Sir George said: 'I’m not now standing to be an MP and I am not a minister, but what I can state quite categorically is the government I served under with Theresa May as Prime Minister had no intention of "selling off" the NHS as part of any trade deal with the US.
'In fact, my strict instructions as an international trade minister was to make it clear, when necessary, that that was never going to be the case. I never had to.'
National reports were based on minutes from the meeting retrieved from a freedom of information request by campaign group Global Justice Now.
Sir George added: 'The words and phrases Global Justice is relying on to make these allegations cannot work toward any sensible argument the government was or is happy to sell off the NHS to American pharmaceuticals, and any suggestion has no basis in fact and is nonsense.'
It was announced earlier this month that Sir George would not stand for election on December 12, despite being re-selected by his party. Former Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond will run instead.
He denied the allegations were linked to his choice to stand down. 'It is 100 per cent not related in any way shape or form,' he said.
'Theresa May and Boris Johnson both made it clear again and again the NHS would not be for sale.'
Sir George was knighted in Theresa May's resignation honours this year.