The Labour Party has declared a “conflict of interest at the heart of government procurment” amid further controversy over contracts to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.
Angela Rayner, Labour deputy leader, told the House of Commons on Thursday (24 November) PPE Medro was given £203m in government contracts “after a referral from a Tory peer”.
“It now appears that tens of millions of pounds of that money ended up in offshore accounts connected to the individuals involved – profits made possible through the company’s personal connections to ministers and the Tories’ VIP lane, which was declared illegal by the High Court,” she said.
In January a Parliamentary investigation was launched in Conservative peer Baroness Michelle Mone concerning her “alleged involvement in procuring contracts for PPE Medro leading to potential breaches” of the House of Lords code of conduct.
Labour scheduled an urgent question in Commons following claims in The Guardian that Mone received £29m following PPE Medpro's referral through the government’s “VIP lane”, which prioritised suppliers recommended by government officials and ministers.
Mone has denied the claims and any link to PPE Medro.
Rayner told Parliament: “Taxpayers money was wasted due to a total failure of due diligence and a conflict of interest at the heart of government procurement.”
PPE Medpro was awarded contracts worth £203m in May 2020, despite the company only being established two weeks before the contracts were awarded.
Rayner said ministers were refusing to publish correspondence relating to the Medro contract award because a mediation process is under way. This is due to concerns about delivery on the contract.
Health minister Neil O'Brien acknowledged it was an “underperforming contract”, but the government could claim for damages if agreement isn't reached.
He said the VIP lane did not give suppliers “any kind of successful guarantee” over contracts, and it was set up to handle the “huge number of contacts” being submitted.
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