Ministers were urged to explain how deals worth “more than £830m have been awarded to at least 12 different companies” for personal protective equipment (PPE) – which has “never materialised”.
In the Commons, Labour also demanded answers over a contract handed – “without any public tender process” – to Public First, a company run by a former aide to Michael Gove and associate of Dominic Cummings.
It was “owned by friends of the prime minister’s most senior adviser”, Helen Hayes, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said – and “justified as part of the coronavirus response but appears to relate to Brexit”.
“The flexibility required by extraordinary circumstances is no excuse for reducing transparency or abandoning any attempt at due diligence,” Ms Hayes protested.
Penny Mordaunt, a Cabinet Office minister, did not deny that PPE had not been delivered, but insisted every MP knew a senior employee at Public First – who was a “former much-loved deputy speaker” of the Commons.
“If the honourable lady has serious concerns about these contracts, other than insinuations, there are very clear process to go through, and I would urge her to do so,” she said.
The row comes as the government faces a court case over the awarding of emergency contracts, outside of normal rules, alleging breaches of procurement law and apparent bias to longstanding associates.
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