Ministers were today told to “come clean” amid claims that civil servants were unable to buy protective equipment quickly at the height of the pandemic because they were “drowning” in offers from suppliers with links to the Government.
According to emails released at a High Court hearing, civil servants were bombarded by “VIP companies” wanting to “jump the queue” for lucrative contracts.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said the revelations were “beyond shocking” that companies “without the right certification” were able to jump it.
Labour MP Dan Carden claimed: “Efforts to secure life-saving PPE were hindered by so many top Tories trying to get their mates and donors in on the action.” He added ministers now had to “come clean”.
Meanwhile, chair of the powerful key public accounts committee Meg Hillier told the Standard: “All of these revelations do not take away from the fact that they needed to have a clearer route for checking and not allow people to put favoured companies through because they had relatives or friends working for them.”
Campaigners the Good Law Project are challenging the Government in court over directly awarding contracts during the pandemic.
Emails showed a pest control firm which landed Covid contracts was put forward for the “VIP” list by Steve Oldfield, the Department for Health and Social Care’s chief commercial officer, but its chairman was a friend of his father-in-law.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The priority list was a way of triaging approaches we had from companies and individuals that had the greatest chance of offering support to provide PPE that could save lives within the NHS and elsewhere. So that’s the approach that was set up and that’s why it was right to have that. And we have I think 32 billion items of PPE on order and delivered as a result.”