Politics

Fury over £1billion coronavirus deals as Tories hand out huge contracts to pals


More than £1billion of outsourced government contracts have gone to firms run by Tory “friends and donors” since the pandemic took hold, an analysis reveals.

The figures include deals for PPE provision, testing and polling – as well as the Government’s much-maligned contact tracing system.

Some of the firms were awarded work under emergency procedures that allow public bodies to give contracts without asking other firms to bid for the work.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing. But the Good Law Project is challenging the Government’s decision to award contracts to a few firms run by “allies” without a competitive tender.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves, who analysed the contracts, told the Mirror: “It is outrageous that so much public money is being siphoned to Tory friends and donors. We need to know who agreed these contracts, when and why.”

Baroness Michelle Mone in the House of Lords
Baroness Michelle Mone in the House of Lords

Jo Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, added: “The way government chose to place these contracts threw open the doors to the politically well connected. And boy, did they take advantage.

“While tens of thousands of families mourn loved ones, in the Carlton Club the lucky few will be toasting the Government with vintage champagne, paid for with our money.”

The Department of Health said: “We have processes for carrying out proper due diligence for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.”

Here, we take a look at some of the contracts and their Tory links…

PA Consulting Services Ltd

Sir Merrick Cockell is the ex-Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council
Sir Merrick Cockell is the ex-Tory leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council

Total – £13.75million

Contracts – Three

WHAT FOR: Consulting

LINK: Tory ex-leader of Kensington and Chelsea council Sir Merrick Cockell has been a senior adviser since 2014.

The bulk of the work was for consulting on the ventilator challenge. There is no suggestion Sir Merrick played any role in securing contracts with the Government. 

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Meller DesignsTotal

Total – £90.9million

Contracts: Four

WHAT FOR: Hand sanitiser, face masks

LINK: Co-owner is David Meller, who has given Tories £65,000 in 10 years.

Also gave £3,250 to Michael Gove’s failed bid for leadership in 2016. The firm usually supplies home and beauty goods but turned to PPE. Mr Meller has said he is “proud” of its role at the height of the crisis.

Randox Laboratories Ltd

Total – £133million

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: Coronavirus testing

LINK: Northern Irish firm pays former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson almost £100,000 a year as an adviser.

But a spokesman insisted: “Owen Paterson MP played no role in securing any Randox contract with DHSC and any insinuation that he did would be misleading.” 

Hanbury Strategy

Total – £819,000

Contracts – Three

WHAT FOR: Polling, focus groups and strategy for Cabinet Office and Treasury

LINKS: Set up by Dominic Cummings ally Paul Stephenson, part of the Vote Leave campaign and a Tory media adviser for 2019 election.

Legal campaigners are taking action over contract. Firm says it has top experts and is “proud” of its work.

Public First

Total – £1million

Contracts – 4

The owner once worked for Michael Gove
The owner once worked for Michael Gove

 

WHAT FOR: Public opinion surveys and strategic advice.


LINK: Owned by James Frayne – a close ally of Dominic Cummings who also worked for Michael Gove at the Department for Education – and wife Rachel Wolf, who co-wrote the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto.

PPE Medpro Ltd

Total – £203million

Contracts – Two

WHAT FOR: PPE

LINK: Specialist manufacturing firm won contracts to supply PPE to the NHS seven weeks after it was set up.

It was started by Anthony Page on the day he quit as secretary of the firm that provides branding services to Tory peer and lingerie entrepreneur Baroness Mone.

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Mr Page is also a director of finance firm Knox Group, founded by Mone’s fiance, Doug Barrowman. Baroness Mone has said she had no involvement in PPE MedPRO.

She added Barrowman is also not involved in the firm. Page states the firm underwent a rigorous vetting procedure.

Ocean Footprint

 Julian Henry Malins is the brother of ex-Tory MP Humphrey Malins
 Julian Henry Malins is the brother of ex-Tory MP Humphrey Malins

Total – £5.2million

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: Face masks

LINK: Julian Henry Malins is one of four directors. He is brother of Tory ex-MP Humfrey Malins, who, the firm says, has “nothing to do with it”.

P14 Medical

Total – £276m

Contracts – Three

WHAT FOR: Face shields

LINK: Director Steve Dechan is a Tory councillor in Stroud and campaigned for local MP Siobhan Baillie last year.

He said he had only met MPs and ex-ministers on the campaign trail and never talked of PPE. The medical supplies firm got the deals despite significant losses in 2019. It said these were due to investing in new technology.

Serco Group PLC

Sir Nicholas Soames brother is the CEO
Sir Nicholas Soames brother is the CEO

Total – £214million

Contracts – Four

WHAT FOR: Supports contact-tracing system and call centres, manages testing site.

LINK: Health minister Edward Argar was previously a senior executive. The firm’s CEO, Rupert Soames, is the brother of Tory ex-MP Sir Nicholas and his wife Camilla gave the Tories £4,995 last year. Serco said it was “awarded the vast majority of work… through competition”.

Topham Guerin

Total – £3million

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: Coronavirus messaging

LINK: Creative agency worked on the Tory Party’s digital and social media campaign in last general election.

The firm said it was “proud” to work with New Zealand and UK governments on Covid.

Arcadis

Gavin Barwell is ex-No 10 chief of staff

Total – £1.5million

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: Consultant

LINKS: Gavin Barwell, ex-No 10 chief of staff, became a non-exec director in June. There is no suggestion he played a role in securing contracts.

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Clipper Logistics

Total – £1.3million

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: Distributing PPE

LINK: Chairman Steven Parkin has donated £725,000 to the Tories since 2016 and has attended Leaders’ Group meetings which give him exclusive access to Tory prime ministers.

Dragontown 

Total – £675,000

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: PPE

LINK: One of the directors, Lady Xuelin Bates, is the wife of Tory peer and former Home Office minister Lord Bates. She has donated £30,000 to the Conservative Party since 2014. 

Faculty AI

Total – £3.1million

Contracts – Four

WHAT FOR: Data analysis

LINK: Ben Warner, brother of CEO Marc, was recruited as a data scientist at No10 after work on Tories’ election campaign.

Until September, Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnew was a shareholder. The firm said “each and every” contract was “won through a fit and proper process”.

Globus Shetland Ltd

Total – £93million

Contracts – One

WHAT FOR: Respirators

LINK: Since 2016, the equipment firm, which claims 25 years’ experience in supplying industry and healthcare, has donated £365,668 to the Tories.

Its annual financial gifts rose to £150,000 in 2019, when Boris Johnson became PM.

Rachel Reeves, Labour Cabinet Office Minister, has criticised the outsourcing

Rachel Reeves, Labour Cabinet Office Minister, said: “This Government is obsessed. It cannot stop outsourcing.

“Since the pandemic began, we have seen it issue £11billion of contracts without competitive tender, meaning businesses that are experienced and qualified have been shut out.

“Of course, it’s important the Government took swift initial action to the virus. But why hand out these contracts to a handful of huge companies, many of them with terrible track records?

“Why rely on them without considering all the alternatives? Why, when we know how vital tracing contacts is in curbing the spread, hand the funds to Serco rather than local public health teams, as most successful countries have done?

“The failures on contact tracing bite especially deep when we see many of our councils picking up the pieces with a fraction of the resources.

“And what seems wasteful becomes troubling when we look closer at some of these contracts handed to people with clear links to the Tory Party.

“These top £1billion worth so far. This approach isn’t just shady it’s also not working, with tests voided, PPE unable to be used and a fortune spent on consultants doing who knows what.

“This wasteful government needs to learn from our local leaders and put communities above its political pals.”





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