Urgent action needed to root out government ‘cronyism’ says Midlothian MP

Wednesday January 12th 2022

Owen-Thompson-House-of-Commons-Covid


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Owen Thompson MP has called for urgent action to tackle government ‘cronyism’ as the High Court rules the use of the ’VIP lanes’ for awarding lucrative Covid contracts to be unlawful.

The Midlothian MP is a long-term campaigner for greater accountabilty over the government’s Covid contract decisions, including tabling a Private Member’s Bill which would have required Ministers to declare any financial, personal or party interests to those awarded contracts (the Ministerial Interests (Emergency Contracts) Bill or “Crony Bill”).

Today’s ruling is the result of a challenge brought by the Good Law Project and campaign group EveryDoctor over PPE contracts awarded to a pest control company PestFix and the hedge fund Ayanda Capital which has links to the Conservative party but no clear PPE procurement experience. The judge ruled the use of the high priority lane was “in breach of the obligation of equal treatment… the illegality is marked by this judgment.”

Commenting, Midlothian MP Owen Thompson said:

“Today’s ruling is yet another damning verdict about the actions of this government, already up to its neck in sleaze and scandal. It used to be expected that a government of any political colour would not break the law. Boris Johnson’s government has shown time and again that it believes itself to be above the law.

“The secretive VIP lane for Covid contracts should never have existed – it benefited the well-connected over the qualified. People with NHS procurement experience found themselves unable to get a toe in the door while those with friends in high places were being unfairly fast-tracked.

“At a time when frontline workers were struggling without the right equipment, it’s a scandal that millions were blown on useless PPE equipment at over-inflated costs to the public purse.

“Decisions had to be taken quickly, but steps should have been taken to ensure retrospective scrutiny. My proposed Crony Bill was one simple step which would have made sure Ministers had to answer in parliament for any contracts which were awarded to their friends and associates, but even this was not supported by the government. Instead, they seemed keen to use the cover of Covid to bypass due process at every opportunity.

“No wonder people are angry. While the rest of us struggled to follow the rules we now know the Prime Minister was spending lockdown having illegal parties in his backyard and his government were awarding big money contracts to pals through the back door.”

“With the UK passing the grim milestone of 150,000 lives lost, one of the worst death tolls in Europe, it’s way past time this government was held to account for their actions throughout the pandemic. “

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