North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has accused union chiefs of conducting a “tiresome” smear campaign against him over alleged links to private health companies.
Last week, Mr Bellingham said he was considering taking legal action against the Unite union after it named him in a list of 70 coalition MPs who supported controversial NHS reforms, despite links with private firms.
But the union has hit back, accusing him of seeking to “defend the indefensible”.
Unite says that, between 2006 and 2010, Mr Bellingham was a paid director of Arc Fund Management Holdings, which later became Consolidated Asset Management Holdings, and which it claims ran funds which were invested in private health companies.
Mr Bellingham has confirmed he was on the company’s board, but insisted he stepped down when he became a minister after the 2010 general election.
He said he understood the company did not hold any health shares, adding: “It’s ridiculous to dig up past involvement with companies to say he is conflicted.”
He went on: “If Unite are trying to say it somehow influenced my voting on a bill post the election, that is obviously complete and total nonsense,
“What we’re seeing is a smear campaign that is getting quite tiresome.
“I may have to take stronger action against the people doing it.”
But Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, claimed his union had exposed a “scandalous conflict of interests” between MPs and the private health sector over reforms it describes as “disastrous.”
He said: “Henry Bellingham is attempting to defend the indefensible. It’s time these MPs were held to account for carving up our NHS.”