Straw accused of breaking EU regulations

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The Independent Online

Jack Straw has been accused of breaking EU rules in the way he awarded a £1.7bn contract to supply police radios, it emerged yesterday.

Jack Straw has been accused of breaking EU rules in the way he awarded a £1.7bn contract to supply police radios, it emerged yesterday.

Now the Home Secretary is facing legal action following a decision by the European Commission to refer the UK to court in three separate cases.

Mr Straw, who awarded the contract for state-of-the-art police radios to a company called BT Quadrant, has been accused of failing to comply with rules demanding "open and competitive conditions". According to a European Commission document, the Home Office rejected some tenders for supplying the equipment because they did not meet a specific technical standard for mobile radios. The Home Office did not then allow time to assess alternatives.

In the second case, the Home Office interpreted a Commission directive to mean that it only had to invite tenders from three companies rather than five. The third case is another technical breach involving the conditions for the award of tenders under a framework agreement.

All of the cases have been referred to the European Court of Justice.

The legal action is the latest in a string of Government initiatives to fall foul of Europe. Stephen Byers, the Trade and Industry Secretary, was told he was in breach of EU rules by promising £100m to the coal industry, a funding package for Rover, and also money forthe Post Office.

Yesterday, Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "Why is the party that is supposed to be pro-Europe always getting it wrong in Europe? This is just another twist in the calamitous way that Labour has handled this contract. They are dealing with a multi-million pound radio system and unfortunately yet again we cannot trust Labour to get it right."