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Sunday, October 17, 2021

More Tory donor controversy

The lack of transparency around the awarding of government contracts and the failure to rein in political donations have collided once more to raise further questions about the influence of those who give cash to government parties.

The Mirror reports that a Tory donor whose father lends Boris Johnson his helicopter has won millions of pounds in government green cash. They say that Jo Bamford, son of JCB boss Lord Bamford, has set himself up in the hydrogen fuel industry – which will be big business at next month’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. The self-styled “green entrepreneur” bought collapsed bus manufacturer Wrightbus out of administration in 2019 and set up his own Bamford Bus Company. The firm has since landed a share of £700million-worth of contracts from government bodies to supply hydrogen buses:

While there is no suggestion of improper conduct, Tom Brake, director of the Unlock Democracy campaign group, told the Sunday Mirror: “As long as donors are allowed to gift huge amounts of cash to MPs and political parties, and MPs can switch seamlessly between being the lucky recipient of a donation or a paid consultancy role and a ministerial position, questions will be asked.

“Until a cap on donations is introduced – Unlock Democracy is calling for £5,000 per year – there is always going to be doubt about whether grants or contracts were won fair and square or whether cash for access and influence came into play.”

Lord Bamford and his family have handed at least £10million in cash and gifts to the Conservatives since 2001 – with son Jo also giving £74,854 since 2019. His donations include gifts to constituencies of several MPs now in ministerial jobs, including George Freeman, the new Energy Secretary.

A year ago, Mr Freeman entered into a contract to offer “strategic advice” to another of Mr Bamford’s firms – Ryze Hydrogen, which invests in facilities that make the fuel cells to power buses.

The contract was scrapped and payments returned after Mr Freeman was reported for a breach of the ministerial code for failing to inform a Parliamentary watchdog.

Fellow Tory Julian Smith, the former Chief Whip, is a £60,000-a-year adviser for Ryze. And a new £45m hydrogen production facility is set to open up a stone’s throw from the COP26 conference – with Ryze as a major partner.

The Government’s Hydrogen Strategy predicts the industry will be worth £13billion to the economy by 2050. Last year Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was “very, very keen that we push hydrogen”.

According to industry magazine Passenger Transport, that came after “sustained lobbying” from Mr Bamford.

While the businessman has thrown his lot into green investments, his digger mogul father still has a fleet of aircraft. And the PM has come under fire for using helicopters and jets lent to him by Lord Bamford for campaign visits.

Before May’s local elections and the Hartlepool by-election, Mr Johnson is understood to have used a Gulfstream 650 business jet to fly from Farnborough, Hants, to Wales and the North East.

The same month the PM used a Bamford-registered chopper on a 50-minute flight from London to Wolverhampton – saving just over an hour compared to taking the train.

Meanwhile, Wales-on-line reports that a Welsh company whose directors include a former adviser to Boris Johnson donated £20,000 to the Conservative Party at the same time that it secured UK Government funding worth millions of pounds. Hydro Industries, a water technology firm based at Llangennech in Carmarthenshire, was awarded a “convertible loan” from the government’s Future Fund scheme last year:

Hydro has donated more than £70,000 to the Conservative Party since 2015, including last year’s £20,000 payment.

One of its non-executive directors, broadcaster and journalist Guto Harri, was an adviser and spokesman for Boris Johnson from 2008 to 2012, when he was Mayor of London.

Jolyon Maugham, the director of Good Law Project, which is taking legal action over alleged Tory cronyism, said: “The fact that large sums of public money are going to those with close links to the PM, and who give money to his party, adds to the miasma of sleaze around this government.”

In March 2020 Hydro agreed a deal worth £150m to treat sludge from oil and gas exploitation in Egypt and has another lucrative UK Government-backed contract in Saudi Arabia.

Welcoming the Egypt deal in March last year, the Prime Minister said: “This is exactly the type of contract in the post-Brexit era that showcases the best of UK industry.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The Prime Minister had no involvement in the signing of this deal or any private meetings with members of Hydro Industries. Any suggestion of a conflict of interest or impropriety on the Prime Minister’s behalf is categorically untrue.”

In total Hydro donated £71,000 to the Conservative Party between 2015 and 2020.

All of these donations are legal and above board and there is no suggestion of impropriety. Nevertheless, the impression these donations give of how politics in this country operates must be tackled through reform.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

How Labour's legal troubles are helping the Tories

Like many others I am looking at the clueless, incompetent Tory government we have in power at the moment and asking why it is that they have a ten point lead in the polls. The answer lies in the fact that the main opposition party is just as clueless and is failing to project a convincing alternative narrative to that of Boris Johnson. And then of course there is this.

The Guardian reports that Labour is spending significantly more of its cash on fighting its legal battles than on political campaigning, with party sources telling reporters that last year campaigning was Labour’s fourth-highest spend, behind costs linked to legal cases:

This week’s naming of five of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest staffers in legal action alleging responsibility for leaking a contentious report marked a new chapter in the war between two sides of the party. The report, which contained private WhatsApp messages, aimed to demonstrate bitter factionalism among staff but has prompted legal action from many of those named.

One senior source described the situation between the two sides of the party as “full-blown lawfare” – comparing it to how competing governments in South American countries have attempted to take down each other.

The party’s financial situation has led to the departure of dozens of staff in recent weeks including a significant number of its press office.

The toll of the ongoing legal action was putting off some potential donors, staffers said, though donations can be ringfenced. “We’ve had some amazing conversations with brilliant people, some of whom have defected from other parties, some never involved in politics before – but they don’t want money spent on a legal fight,” one party source said.

Last month, a senior party official revealed Labour was spending more than £2m a year on legal fees, when costs used to be 10% of that figure – about £200,000 a year.

There have been other financial issues that have led to internal questions too. The general secretary, David Evans, was reluctant to use the Treasury’s furlough scheme for fear of negative publicity, so Labour used party funds to pay for up to 20 staff to be furloughed on 80% of their usual pay.

One of the legal cases – by ex-staffers featured in a Panorama programme on antisemitism – has been settled. The most pressing focus for the party’s lawyers now is action by 27 former staffers named in the 860-page leaked report. There is also a separate legal action on data breaches alone, launched by non-staffers whose personal information is mentioned within it.

One of the ex-staffers who is part of the first claim, the former director of governance Emilie Oldknow, had been given leave to appeal her attempt to force the disclosure of the names the party thought were responsible, something Labour had resisted at a hearing in January.

But that battle has come to an abrupt end after a major change of tactic by the party. This week, Labour lodged papers at the high court seeking to place responsibility for the leak on two of Corbyn’s most senior advisers, Seumas Milne and Karie Murphy, as well as Georgie Robertson, Laura Murray and Harry Hayball.

The report, which was intended as a submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) inquiry into antisemitism in the party, was leaked unredacted in April 2020 and alleged that staff had worked to undermine Corbyn’s leadership and antisemitism disciplinary procedures and had sent abusive messages about senior figures.

Milne, a former Guardian journalist, worked as Jeremy Corbyn’s head of communications, while Murphy was his chief of staff. All five have vociferously denied leaking the report and sources said they would take advice on whether to countersue.

What makes it worse for Labour is that costs are going escalate as they submerge themselves in much more involved and complex action that will drag on for much longer. The paper says that there are other challenges on the horizon. For a start Labour could receive a fine from the ICO that might run into seven figures, there is pending action from expelled members and a threat from Corbyn to challenge the removal of the Labour whip, which has been withheld since a statement he made over the EHRC report.

I can't see that gap in the polls closing much for some time to come.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Levelling up from a Spanish beach

In the light of recent developments one moght be forgiven for thinking that Boris Johnson's commitment to the levelling up agenda was fairly superficial. After all, how many people living in red wall areas have the opportunity to borrow a Spanish villa for a mid-autumn holiday?

The incongruity between the prime minister's words and his actions grows when reading in yesterday's Guardian that Johnson's enjoyment of his pal's two swimming pools, organic farm and private woodland in the Spanish sunshine has even moe controversy attached to it.

The paper says that the sprawling Marbella estate where Boris Johnson has been staying this week may be an awkward reminder of the questions he faced – and managed to avoid – in the wake of the Pandora papers revelations last week:

Documents seen by the Guardian indicate the luxurious villa, lent to him by environment minister Zac Goldsmith, has been held by an opaque offshore structure based in multiple tax havens.

The papers suggest the minister and his family may have owned the property through a Maltese company held by companies in the Turks and Caicos Islands and administered by a wealth planning firm based in Switzerland.

Goldsmith refused to answer questions about the arrangements, though his spokesperson did not issue a denial.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Goldsmith, who has declared his interest in the secluded villa. But Johnson’s holiday at a property that appears to be held through a chain of companies in secretive jurisdictions will probably raise questions about his commitment to reforms designed to introduce transparency to offshore property ownership in the UK.

The documents also raise questions about whether Goldsmith, a senior government minister who was appointed by Johnson to the House of Lords in 2019, holds valuable and income-generating assets offshore.

How the other half live, eh! Perhaps there should be some levelling down, including means to tax the off-shore assets of UK citizens, as well as the other stuff this government talks about.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

More evidence the UK Government cannot be trusted on international agreements

As the Tory government desperately tries to renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol, the big question on the lips of most European leaders must be whether they can trust anything that UK Ministers say.

It does not help of course that since the agreement was signed by Boris Johnson, after a personal negotiating session with the Irish taoiseach, he and other ministers have spent every possible opportunity bad-mouthing it, and pretending it was imposed on them by the EU. That is a complete lie.

Unfortunately for Johnson and his cronies, there are some who are prepared to put a spoke in their works. The Spectator reports that the Prime Minister's former advisor, Dominuic Cummings has suggested that the government always planned to 'ditch' the protocol:

Cummings says that the priority was to deliver Brexit with the 'best option' available at the time and then later 'ditch' the bits that they didn't like once the government was in a more stable position. He says his claims do not amount to saying that Boris Johnson was lying when it came to the protocol. He says the Prime Minister can't have been lying as 'he never had a scoobydoo what the deal he signed meant'.

To say those claims have landed badly with the EU would be an understatement. Former taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was instrumental in negotiating the protocol with Johnson at a countryside retreat, has said that if the UK government acted in bad faith, they could not be trusted on future agreements either. Unsurprisingly the comments are viewed as very unhelpful inside government. The issue ministers face is that they are trying to broker a new agreement with the EU — including renegotiating the role of the ECJ — anything which suggests the UK side cannot be trusted makes that task all the harder.

The UK may come back empty-handed from these fresh negotiations after all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A deliberate attempt to avoid scrutiny?

If it wasnt bad enough that some Ministers have been governing using WhatsApp and private phones, the Guardian has revealed that government rules on these messages are creating a failure of transparency and accountability.

The paper says that ministers and civil servants are required by policy to set instant messaging chats to delete automatically, in violation of British law on public records and freedom of information. A legal challenge by the not-profit organisation the Citizens seeks to overturn this process.

They are concerned that the likes of WhatsApp and Signal, which have a disappearing messages option, are being used to avoid scrutiny of decision-making processes, including on significant issues such as the government’s coronavirus response:

At a high court hearing in London on Tuesday, it was revealed that the Cabinet Office’s “information and records retention and destruction policy”, disclosed in response to the Citizens application for a judicial review, obliges officials to delete instant chats.

The policy says: “Instant messaging is provided to all staff and should be used in preference to email for routine communications where there is no need to retain a record of the communication. Instant messages history in individual and group chats must be switched off and should not be retained once a session is finished. If the content of an instant message is required for the record or as an audit trail, a note for the record should be created and the message content saved in that.”

The Citizens says making a separate note, as opposed to preserving the actual message, is insufficient to comply with the law. Other documents disclosed ban the use of personal phones, email and WhatsApp by ministers and civil servants. The Citizens, which is being supported by the campaigning law group Foxglove, says the policies are “a confusing, contradictory mess”.

It is challenging the lawfulness of:
  • Use for government business of instant messaging services that allow messages to be automatically deleted, permanently, within a short period of receipt by ministers, civil servants and special advisers. 
  • Cabinet Office policy requiring the use of automatic deletion within all instant messaging services. 
  • Use for government business of personal devices, email and communications applications in breach, it says, of the government’s own policies.
After Mrs Justice Lang granted permission for the case to go to full judicial review, Clara Maguire, the director of the Citizens, said: “This is a good day for democracy. Lack of transparency has been at the heart of the UK government’s disastrous handling of the Covid catastrophe as today’s parliamentary report points out so clearly.

We will have to see how this plays out now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A public health failure - but where is the Prime Minister?

Just as he was missing in action at the beginning of the pandemic, Boris Johnson is also absent as the first damning report is published condemining his government's handling of covid.

As the Guardian reports, a landmark inquiry by the House of Commons science and technology committee and the health and social care committee has concluded that Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, with ministers and scientists taking a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the death toll:

“Groupthink”, evidence of British exceptionalism and a deliberately “slow and gradualist” approach meant the UK fared “significantly worse” than other countries, according to the 151-page “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date” report led by two former Conservative ministers.

The crisis exposed “major deficiencies in the machinery of government”, with public bodies unable to share vital information and scientific advice impaired by a lack of transparency, input from international experts and meaningful challenge.

Despite being one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid in January 2020, the UK “squandered” its lead and “converted it into one of permanent crisis”. The consequences were profound, the report says. “For a country with a world-class expertise in data analysis, to face the biggest health crisis in 100 years with virtually no data to analyse was an almost unimaginable setback.”

Boris Johnson did not order a complete lockdown until 23 March 2020, two months after the government’s Sage committee of scientific advisers first met to discuss the crisis. “This slow and gradualist approach was not inadvertent, nor did it reflect bureaucratic delay or disagreement between ministers and their advisers. It was a deliberate policy – proposed by official scientific advisers and adopted by the governments of all of the nations of the UK,” the report says.

“It is now clear that this was the wrong policy, and that it led to a higher initial death toll than would have resulted from a more emphatic early policy. In a pandemic spreading rapidly and exponentially, every week counted.”

Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic – and the advice that led to them – “rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”, the report concludes, stressing: “This happened despite the UK counting on some of the best expertise available anywhere in the world, and despite having an open, democratic system that allowed plentiful challenge.”

The report says that the “impossibility” of suppressing the virus was only challenged when it became clear the NHS could be overwhelmed and questions why international experts were not part of the UK scientific advisory process and why measures that worked in other countries were not brought in as a precaution, as a response was hammered out:

While Public Health England told the MPs it had formally studied and rejected the South Korean approach, no evidence was provided despite repeated requests.

“We must conclude that no formal evaluation took place, which amounts to an extraordinary and negligent omission given Korea’s success in containing the pandemic, which was well publicised at the time,” the report says.

The MPs said the government’s decision to halt mass testing in March 2020 – days after the World Health Organization called for “painstaking contact tracing and rigorous quarantine of close contacts” – was a “serious mistake”.

When the test, trace and isolate system was rolled out it was “slow, uncertain and often chaotic”, “ultimately failed in its stated objective to prevent future lockdowns”, and “severely hampered the UK’s response to the pandemic”. The problem was compounded, the report adds, by the failure of public bodies to share data, including between national and local government.

Further criticism is levelled at poor protection in care homes, for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and for people with learning disabilities.

Boris Johnson's decision to go on holiday to Spain at the exact time this report is being published is interesting. Let's hope he will be questioned on it when he returns and does not try and pass off the blame onto his recently sacked health secretary.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Will public pressure force sceptical MPs to act on climate change?

There is an interesting article in the Independent suggesting Tory MPs like Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood and Steve Baker, who are opposed to proposals to help the UK meet its legal commitment of ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 because they are too costly, may well be out-of-step with their own constituents.

The paper says that polling carried out in their constituencies by Greenpeace reveals big majorities support the UK going further and faster, in the run-up to the crucial Cop26 summit in Glasgow next month:

In all three seats, around two-thirds of voters said the government should be “doing more” to address the climate crisis – while under a quarter said it was “doing the right amount”.

More than 70 per cent of adults in each constituency want the UK to be “one of the most ambitious countries in the world” – rather than wait for bigger countries, such as China, to take tougher action.

Between 64 and 71 per cent want gas boilers phased out and households given help to replace them with low-carbon emission heat pumps – a key current controversy.

And large majorities say that climate will be a “key issue for me at the next general election” in Sir Iain’s seat (67 per cent), Sir John’s (66 per cent) and Mr Baker’s (63 per cent).

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s policy director, called the trio “political dinosaurs seeking voters who have largely gone extinct within their own constituencies”.

And he warned the government of “a mutiny brewing” among voters unless it stopped “pandering to climate-laggard MPs that quite clearly fail to represent their views”.

“Lots of research and polling shows voters want the government to do more to tackle the climate crisis and they want them to do it fairly,” Mr Parr said.

“People understand that people on low incomes need to be protected, but that we can’t afford not to implement these policies.”

In the run-up to Cop26, Tory infighting has appeared to slam the brakes on CO2-cutting measures to put the UK on a path to net zero, with just three weeks until the summit.

Long-promised strategies to replace gas boilers and insulate homes have yet to appear – while the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, came under fire for failing to even mention climate in his conference speech.

Unfortunately, this polling does not appear to have moved the sceptics from their position:

The Tory trio have warned the party’s new ‘Red Wall’ voters will not accept higher household costs – or criticised the UK for acting while fast-developing nations drag their heels.

Sir Iain, who must defend a tiny majority of 1,262 in Chingford and Woodford Green, in north east London, has accused Boris Johnson of a “frenzied determination to hit the arbitrary net zero target”.

He claimed that “weaning Britain off petrol and onto electric cars” would result in a “growing dependency on a brutal Chinese regime”, where most batteries are made.

Sir John, who enjoys a 7,383 majority in Wokingham, asked, in August: “Why should UK people be told to fit expensive heat pumps they don’t want and can’t afford, when China and Germany keep on burning coal on an industrial scale to dominate export markets?”

And Mr Baker, who leads by 4,214 votes in Wycombe, became a trustee of the climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation, set up by former chancellor, Nigel Lawson, to challenge “harmful” CO2-cutting policies.

“We’ll have another absolute political fiasco if we don’t confront the cost of net zero now,” he said in August – warning Tory voters would desert to Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party.

I suppose we will have to wait until the next general election to see whether the voters in these three constituencies are prepared to cast their votes for change or to keep the dinosaurs in place.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Tories are the new authoritarians

As Liberty point out there is already a strong authoritarian streak running through this Conservative government. They point out that during the pandemic, the Government frequently made drastic changes to our rights and freedoms with barely a moment’s notice with next to no oversight from Members of Parliament. COVID regulations have been created and amended upwards of 425 times – with many coming into force before or on the same day that MPs first had a chance to debate these changes.

They add that the Government is shutting down accountability by trying to make it much more difficult to challenge the powerful in court, they are legislating to gag protestors and to prevent people publicly standing up for their beliefs, they have set up a a secret ‘clearing house’ for freedom of information requests, regularly screening hundreds of requests from journalists and campaigning organisations before refusing to release information to them, and they are introducing voter suppression measures to make it harder for their opponents to win elections.

So really it should be no surprise to see a backbench Tory MP urging them to go further. The Mirror reports, Stoke-on-Trent North MP, Jonathan Gullis, has called on teachers who use the phrase “white privilege” to be disciplined and reported to Prevent as extremists. He also wants teachers who show support for Labour in the classroom to be sacked:

The phrase ‘white privilege’ is used to describe unseen advantages for people with white skin, in a society where most other people are of the same ethnic background as them.

But Mr Gullis claimed: “The term white privilege… is an extremist term, it should be reported to Prevent, because it is an extremist ideology.”

Prevent is a government programme to tackle extremist ideology that could lead to terrorism.

Mr Gullis continued: “It’s racist to actually suggest everyone who’s white somehow is riddled with privilege.

“So I hope that will be reported, I hope that will be looked into, and any teacher who’s perpetuated in the classroom ultimately should face a disciplinary hearing at the very least.

“Because it’s not what children should be listening to, it’s not appropriate for the classroom.

“The classroom is a place to impart knowledge, not to impart political ideology of the teacher standing in front of you.”

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said: “The idea that white privilege exists isn’t extremist, it’s a widely accepted fact.

"These comments betray a wider desire in the Tory party to drive a wedge between working class communities, crack down on free speech in education, and impose right-wing values on teachers.

In many ways, this MP is putting up straw men to be knocked down, but underlying his remarks is a worrying lack of commitment to freedom of thought and freedom of speech. This government is becoming more and more authoritarian and that should worry us all.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Will the royal family step up to the plate in tackling climate change?

According to the Guardian, bpth the Queen and Prince Charles are due to attend the Cop26 climate summit, which starts on 31 October. It seems apt therefore that the conservationist and broadcaster Chris Packham has used this moment to call on the royal family to “step up” by committing to rewilding their estates before Cop26:

The royal family is the UK’s biggest landowning family with an estate that includes lands held by the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall and the Queen. According to calculations by the rewilding campaign group Wild Card, the family owns more than 323,748 hectares (800,000 acres) of land, including the crown estate, which is equivalent to double the area of Greater London or 1.4% of the UK.

“That’s a very large amount of land,” said Packham, 60. “And quite a lot of it is not in what I would call good ecological condition.”

Citing Balmoral as an example, he said ideally the 20,234-hectare estate should be covered in temperate rainforest. But instead it is largely managed for grouse shooting and deer stalking. “So that land is not working to its greatest advantage to us at this critical point.” He also said that overall, royal land had less forest cover than the national average.

Balmoral estate in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is largely managed for grouse shooting and deer stalking.

“With 1.4% of the land surface they could do enormous good. Leading by example is the best way to lead and a lot of people follow their example,” he added.

The benefits of rewilding include carbon capture, biodiversity and flood prevention. The UN has said the world must rewild and restore an area the size of China by 2030 in order to meet climate and nature commitments.

Given that such a drastic move would mean that the royals would have to stop hunting the wildlife for sport, I am not holding my breath, but surely it is time for leadership by example, not just words.

Friday, October 08, 2021

The continuing scandal of government covid contracts

I don't believe that details of the UK Government's independent covid inquiry have yet been announced, but if it does not include a serious and detailsd look at the awarding of contracts for PPE and other essentials then there should be questions as to why not.

The Independent reports on the latest news in this saga, with calls for Boris Johnson’s government to end “secrecy” after it emerged that a Covid contract handed to a Conservative Party donor’s firm is still under wraps after 18 months.

The paper says that Clipper Logistics – whose boss has donated £730,000 to the Tories – secured a deal to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) last year without facing any rival bids, but government figures now show the deal for the firm’s services was renewed at £650,000 a month – which means the contract has cost the taxpayer an estimated £11m.

This firm initially won a three-month government contract worth £1.3m to take responsibility for the delivery of PPE to all NHS Trusts in March 2020. The contract was then extended to £1.95m for another three months, followed by “monthly extensions at estimated values of £650,000”. The government has also confirmed that Clipper Logistics have “distributed all PPE since April 2020”, taking the total value of the contract since last spring to £11m:

Amid an outcry over alleged cronyism, a court ruling in March found that 100 Covid contracts had not yet been released when Mr Johnson told MPs they were “on the record for everyone to see”.

It followed a High Court ruling which found that the government had acted unlawfully by handing out contracts during the pandemic by failing to publish details in a timely way.

Ministers have also faced flak over “eye-watering” levels of waste. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found in July that 2.1 billion items of PPE ntended for the NHS had been deemed unfit.

And last month health minister Lord Bethell admitted the government was in dispute over £1.2bn worth of PPE deemed “substandard” or undelivered.

The Good Law Project campaign group – which has taken legal action in bid to get Lord Bethell’s to hand over phone messages – said the contracts in question amounted to 10 per cent of the money spent on PPE at the peak of the pandemic.

Surely the Covid inquiry must provide clarity and transparency on these dealings.

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