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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Another day, another Tory lobbying controversy

The Guardian reports that Home Secretary, Priti Patel has been accused of a “flagrant breach” of the ministerial code by allegedly lobbying Michael Gove over a £20m deal.

The paper refers to documents that show Patel attempted to secure a personal protective equipment (PPE) deal for the healthcare firm Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd (PDL) in May 2020. Her efforts failed after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said the masks were “not suitable for the NHS”, according to disclosure in a legal case. But PDL was awarded a £102.7m contract weeks later in July to provide a different type of mask. On both occasions, Samir Jassal was Patel’s contact at PDL.

They add that Jassal has stood as a Conservative candidate at two general elections and has met Boris Johnson and David Cameron:

Disclosure from the government – in response to a pre-action letter from the Good Law Project campaign group – revealed a letter Patel wrote to Gove in May last year. The Daily Mail, which first reported on the documents, said the possible deal was worth £20m.

In the letter, Patel expressed disappointment that the government no longer required supplies of KN95 masks from PDL, saying “they have committed stock and secured supply, exposing them to considerable financial risk and pressures”.

“The late stage in which the government has decided not to use them has caused these problems,” the home secretary wrote on 3 May last year.

She went on to say she would be “most grateful” if Hancock could review the matter urgently and urged him to “work with the company to distribute and supply these masks”.

Hancock wrote back 10 days later to say that “KN95 face masks are Chinese standards” and that UK officials have concluded that they are “not suitable for use in the NHS”.

We can only hope that the public inquiry into the government's handling of Covid includes a special section on procurement and its transparency.
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