50 companies benefited from the ‘VIP lane’ for Covid PPE contracts, according to the government.
A Tory minister, MP, or peer referred more than a quarter of the companies awarded a PPE contract to the fast-track scheme.
The Government bowed to pressure and released a long-awaited list of companies on its so-called “VIP lane” for Covid contracts last night, revealing that MPs helped secure £4.7 billion worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) deals.
According to documents published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), fifty companies were given priority contracts to supply PPE during the pandemic, including 18 firms nominated by Conservative politicians.
When the UK was struggling to source PPE for healthcare workers in the early days of the pandemic, the list allowed ministers, MPs, Lords, and top government officials to recommend companies that could help.
For nearly a year, newspapers had pressed the government to release the list of companies that had been given priority access to Covid contracts.
It comes after the National Audit Office (NAO) confirmed in November last year that there was a “high priority lane” for deals during the pandemic in its investigation into Government procurement during the pandemic.
According to the NAO, suppliers on the VIP list were ten times more likely to get a PPE contract from the government than those who went through the normal process.
All cases were subjected to conflict-of-interest and anti-fraud checks.
Companies were referred for priority access by ministers such as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and then-Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove.
Mr Gove recommended Meller Designs, a company co-owned by Tory donor David Meller until January of this year, for priority access to PPE contracts.
During the pandemic, six PPE supply contracts worth £164 million were awarded to Meller Designs, a Bedford-based fashion and beauty company.
Since 2009, Mr Meller has given nearly £60,000 to the Conservative Party, including £3,250 to support Mr Gove’s party leadership bid in 2016, for which he served as chair of finance.
Meller Designs is “extremely proud” of its role in supplying “more than 100 million pieces of personal protective equipment,” according to a company spokesperson.
Mr Gove’s spokesperson denied that the referral was improper, claiming that the Cabinet minister had simply passed on supply offers.
UK news summary from Infosurhoy
‘VIP lane’ for Covid PPE contracts benefited 50 companies, according to the government.
wpcc-script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″]
Sleaze row: Government confirms 50 companies benefited from ‘VIP lane’ for Covid PPE contracts
Family-run furniture business saw profits surge 4,700 per cent after Matt Hancock referred it to VIP lane
Profits at a small family furniture firm rocketed 4,700 per cent after former Health Secretary Matt Hancock referred it to the Government’s High Priority Lane for Covid contracts during the pandemic.
Monarch Acoustics Ltd, run by husband-and-wife team Stuart and Sophie Hopkin, was awarded £28.8 million in May last year to supply surgical gowns to the NHS.
The contract helped boost turnover at the family-run business from £9.9 million in 2019 to £38.2m the following year, the firm’s latest financial accounts show. Pre-tax profits leapt from just £267,000 to £12.6 million over the same period.
Monarch Acoustics also saw its cash reserves swell from just £41,000 in 2019 to £10.2 million last year.
According to official Government documents, the furniture firm helped supply surgical sterile gowns for NHS workers from a manufacturer in China.
The company said on its Instagram that it also helped to manufacture storage trolleys for the UK’s NHS Nightingale Hospitals, which were swiftly erected during the pandemic to stop wards becoming overwhelmed. The trollies are not mentioned in the £28.8 million Government contract.
According to Monarch Acoustics’ website, the firm owns a 96,000 square foot factory in Nottingham where it manufactures “bespoke” products for the “education, healthcare, and public sector markets”.
PPE is not mentioned anywhere on the firm’s website, however its 2020 financial accounts note that “the company had the opportunity to diversify, due to the Covid pandemic, which involved several different contracts utilising current suppliers”.
“This is the reason for the significant increase in turnover as shown above,” the company added.
Monarch Acoustics Ltd was approached for comment.