Matt Hancock has defended the “extraordinary broad range of companies” employed by the Government during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Health Secretary said that the government “had to” work with the private sector in its work tackling the virus.
He likened the Covid-19 testing programme to “building something that’s basically about the same size of Tesco in six months”.
The comments come after he was probed about a Sunday Times report which said that the Government had awarded £1.5 billion to companies linked to the Conservative party during the pandemic.
But he suggested the story was not a “fair or accurate reflection” of the awarding of the contracts.
He told Times Radio: “We’ve brought in an extraordinary broad range of companies and many of them who haven’t been working with Government before because we haven’t had a pandemic of this scale before.
“So think about the testing capacity. It’s nothing to do with any political links, it’s all about building a massive testing capacity in this country that we haven’t had in the past.
“And the need to do that at pace and build this half a million testing capacity that we have today. We built that almost from scratch.
“So the scale of the operation – building something that’s basically about the same size of Tesco in six months – has been incredible. So we absolutely have had to work with the private sector to have this happen.
“We’ve been doing that as quickly and as effectively as we possibly could in what were very, very challenging circumstances.
“In this pandemic we’ve completely put aside politics, it’s all about what can we do to keep people safe and get the country back on its feet.”
Mr Hancock added: “We’ve worked with an unbelievable range of companies.
“We’ve brought in people from all across the country to help with this national effort – some of them I knew before, some of them I didn’t.
“That’s the nature of what happens when you bring in a huge range of people to help with what has been a massive challenge.
“And if you note down all the ones where there were previous contacts and don’t note down all the ones where there weren’t then of course you can give that sort of impression but it’s not a fair or accurate reflection of what went on.”