Senior Tory MP Liam Fox received £20,000 donation from Covid testing firm awarded £500m contract

·2-min read
Liam Fox has yet to comment on the reports  (PA)
Liam Fox has yet to comment on the reports (PA)

Tory MP Dr Liam Fox received a £20,000 donation earlier this year from a Covid-19 testing company about which he had reportedly contacted the health secretary early in the pandemic.

Dr Fox recommended SureScreen Diagnostics to Matt Hancock in 2020, according to an email seen by the BBC and legal campaign group the Good Law Project. SureScreen Diagnostics would later be awarded a £500m testing contract by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The £20,000 donation to Dr Fox, a former defence secretary, is contained in the MPs’ register of interests and was recorded as being received in June 2022. Dr Fox has been contacted for comment.

Dr Fox with former health secretary Matt Hancock (PA)
Dr Fox with former health secretary Matt Hancock (PA)

According to the BBC, a SureScreen director emailed former GP Dr Fox in June 2020 to tell him that the company was sending “millions of antibody tests” to use in hospitals in Germany, Spain and Sweden. The director also complained that it was “crazy” that the tests could not be used in the UK because they had not been approved by Public Health England.

The BBC reports that North Somerset MP Dr Fox forwarded that email to Mr Hancock, the health secretary at the time. It is not clear if anything resulted directly from Dr Fox’s email, but several months later SureScreen was awarded a contract for a different type of antigen test.

In a statement to the BBC, SureScreen said: “The donation to Dr Fox’s office – not Dr Fox personally – was made by one of the directors of the business. This donation was specifically to support a series of events which include education talks from expert guests. The payment is not connected in any way to lobbying.”

Mr Hancock denied any suggestion of wrongdoing.

All testing suppliers – including SureScreen Diagnostics – were evaluated before contracts were awarded, in line with stringent procurement regulations and transparency guidelines

Department of Health and Social Care

A spokesperson for Mr Hancock said: “All DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care] contracts are decided, priced and signed off by the civil service, who are independent of Mr Hancock. To suggest any wrongdoing by Mr Hancock is offensive and potentially libellous.

“If Mr Hancock received an email about expanding testing, of course he would have acted on it, irrespective of the source. Not to do so would have been completely irresponsible. Remember: what was happening at the time was a national effort to expand testing, and all this uncovers is people working together to save lives.”

A DHSC spokesperson said: “All testing suppliers – including SureScreen Diagnostics – were evaluated before contracts were awarded, in line with stringent procurement regulations and transparency guidelines. Tests supplied by the UK government also underwent a rigorous scientific evaluation process before distribution, to make sure they were highly effective at detecting Covid-19.”