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The government’s efforts to rescue its reputation have fallen short yet again as it revealed on Wednesday it has misplaced some documents which are essential to the investigation into former MP Owen Paterson.
Paterson is a former Tory MP who was found guilty of breaching parliament’s lobbying rules by using his role in the Commons to the advantage of two companies he was employed by.
During Wednesday’s PMQs, Boris Johnson promised to publish all the details of the meetings which saw the government agree to a Randox Health’s Covid testing contract – one of the firms Paterson worked for – worth £133 million, as it has been “investigated by the National Audit Office already”.
But shortly after this promise, health minister Gillian Keegan admitted Downing Street was actually “unable to locate” the formal minutes from the meeting immediately after this multi-million pound contract was signed between Randox, Paterson and Lord Bethell on April 9, 2020.
Ms Keegan said: “We will review what information is held, that’s in scope, and we will come back to parliament and deposit them in the libraries of the house. We will commit to that.”
When pressed further, she said this meeting with Paterson was “a courtesy call from the minister to Randox to discuss RNA extraction kits”, a move which was declared on the ministerial register of calls and meetings.
Yet Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has alleged that the absence of minutes was a breach of the ministerial code.
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also said: “I would expect that government meetings that take place with people would always be minuted.”
Fair to say, the general public and the opposition were more than a little sceptical about the timing of the disappearance of these minutes, too.
While news agency PA was told that the minutes are not lost, but they just cannot be found right now, few people on Twitter agree.
Here’s a roundup of the most scathing takes on the latest Tory blunder.
Health Minister Gillian Keegan claims the government has been "unable to locate" formal minutes of the KEY meeting between Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox just after it was awarded £133m Covid testing contract. How unfortunate. 🧐
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) November 17, 2021
Well this doesn’t sound at all corrupt. 🙄 https://t.co/StfdG2A5uU
— Jamie Glackin (@JamieGlackin1) November 17, 2021
A government Minister just confirmed in Parliament that there are no minutes to the meeting(s) that took place between Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox as part of Randox being awarded £600 million of contracts without any kind of tender or any process.
This is corruption.
— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) November 17, 2021
How funny. They must be in the same place Owen Paterson's morals are. https://t.co/FMSbDNuaXm
— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) November 17, 2021
I am watching with jaw on the floor ..
I'd be sacked if I tried winging a meeting https://t.co/Vh5Cdl5u7u
— Justine (@Justine_F1) November 17, 2021
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.