Midlothian MP’s “Crony Bill” Passes First Parliamentary Hurdle

Wednesday January 27th 2021


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

A backbench bill from Owen Thompson MP which would prevent Government Ministers giving contracts to friends and colleagues without scrutiny passed its first hurdle in the parliament today.

The Ministerial Interests (Emergency Powers) Bill received assent and will go forward to a second reading. The Bill would require Minsters to answer questions in parliament about any personal, political, or financial connections they have to companies who are given government contracts.

Mr Thompson said

“I am delighted the Ministerial Interests Bill has passed its first hurdle. There should now be a chance for full debate of this important issue that cuts to the heart of our democracy.

“Anyone in public office should be there to serve the public good, not exploit their position to line the pockets of themselves, their pals or party donors. Yet during the crisis we’ve seen lucrative contracts go to firms with little experience in public procurement, but clear links to people in power.

“It could be said a Crony Virus is threatening the health of our public services and emergency action is needed to get this government under control.

“I fully understand there was a need to procure goods at a scale and speed never done before when the pandemic struck, so the usual processes to ensure best value to the public purse were set aside. But it looks suspiciously like the emergency has been used as a catch-all excuse by this government to bypass scrutiny at every turn.

“The National Audit Office reported a staggering ten billion pounds worth of contracts had been awarded without competition by the end of July. Those on the VIP list, allowing firms with links to politicians or senior officials to pitch directly, had a one in ten chance of success compared to just 0.7 per cent for those going through the usual channels.

“In the full light of day this may well be a scandal to rival or even surpass the MP expenses scandal – but even if it’s not, it’s crucial we get greater transparency and get the regulations in order to prevent corruption setting in.

“The good thing about this bill is, if the right people or companies are getting the jobs, Ministers will have a chance to answer questions and convince us that it is a mere coincidence the contract is being given to an old school chum, their local pub landlord, a colleague’s wife, a Tory donor or Vote Leave campaign colleague. If they are the best person for the job, it should be clear from their credentials, skills and their record. There is nothing to fear from this bill, if there is nothing to hide. ”

“I look forward to the Bill getting a full hearing and hope politicians from across the House will get behind it.”

The proposed bill received cross party support and had co-sponsors from all opposition parties: Dan Carden, Deidre Brock, Liz Saville Roberts, Wendy Chamberlain, Caroline Lucas, Stephen Farry, Claire Hanna, Jim Shannon, Patrick Grady, Alyn Smith, Richard Thomson

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