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‘Secret’ PPE contract handed to Tory donor’s firm now worth £11m

Labour says government ‘must’ publish contract details still under wraps after 18 months

Adam Forrest
Thursday 07 October 2021 22:31 BST

Boris Johnson’s government has been urged 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.

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.

Government figures 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.

Labour demanded the government comes clean and publishes the full details of the “secret” contract, as well as dozens of other Covid-related contracts which have yet to be published.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner, said: “Ministers must publish this contract, and all other secret pandemic contracts, immediately.”

The senior Labour MP added: “The Tories have spent billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on dodgy contracts for their mates. We have paid the bill for over two billion pieces of useless equipment and nearly a million pounds a day just for storing it.”

Steve Parkin, executive chairman of Clipper Logistics, has given £730,000 to the Tory party since 2016 in eight separate donations, the Electoral Commission’s register shows.

His 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.

In a written answer to Labour, health minister Jo Churchill said 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.

Labour has demanded that all details are published on the government’s contracts database, asking why ministers were still failing to be open “if there’s nothing to hide”.

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.

Repeating her call for an inquiry into how contracts were awarded during the pandemic, Ms Rayner said: “The public inquiry needs to start now, with full access to all contracts and documents, including all government business carried out on personal email and WhatsApp accounts.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said Clipper Logistics has been used as a sub-contractor by one of the NHS supply chain contractors.

A spokesperson for the department said: “The Department of Health and Social Care has not awarded a contract to Clipper Logistics and has no contract to publish.”

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