Midlothian MP urges Crony Bill backing as £8.7billion in Covid Contract losses revealed

Owen Thompson MP has urged MPs from all parties to get behind his bill to tackle cronyism, after the Department for Health and Social Care's accounts reveal a shocking £8.7 billion was wasted from £12.1bn spent on vital PPE equipment in 2020/21.

By Kevin Quinn
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 4:05 pm
Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP).
Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP).

The extent of the losses was buried deep in the DHSS's annual report and accounts published this week.

The £8.7bn figure includes £0.67bn on defective PPE, £2.6bn on PPE unsuitable for the NHS, £0.75bn on PPE not needed and £4.7bn in over-inflated prices.

The Government by-passed normal procurement procedures to directly award contracts during the emergency, with many going to companies with strong political connections to Ministers. Those on the secretive VIP fast track were 10 times more likely to be successful in gaining contracts, with the use of this VIP lane judged unlawful in a recent court ruling.

Mr Thompson is calling for support for his Ministerial Interests (Emergency Powers) Bill (the Crony Bill) to ensure Ministers are forced to declare any personal, political, or financial interest in companies being awarded contracts in emergency situations. It is due its second reading this Friday (February 4).

Mr Thompson said: "There are very serious questions to be answered by this government about the amount of money squandered on unusable and over-priced PPE. It looks like there was a blank cheque for disaster capitalists, with no checks and balances to protect the public purse.

"An urgent, independent inquiry is now needed to hold Ministers to account for these shoddy decisions at our expense. While our NHS and keyworkers struggled to cope with the pandemic, this government was being run like a "chumocracy" with money lining the pockets of their pals.

"I know decisions had to be taken at speed, but this does not mean they had to be shrouded in secrecy. The VIP lane gave a clear bias towards those who rub shoulders with people in power, not those who know about NHS procurement, many of whom could not get a toe in the door. Now we face the financial impact of this shambolic process.

"The Ministerial Interests (Emergency Powers) Bill, known as the Crony Bill, is due its second reading on Friday and I hope the Government will not object this time. This small legislative step would shed some much-needed light on the process of emergency procurement, by requiring Ministers to declare in parliament any conflict of interests.

"If there is nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear from the Crony Bill. I urge the government to support it if they want to help remove the stench of sleaze from their contract decisions. Any MP with a shred of integrity would back this simple step towards greater transparency and I urge them all to do so."