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Latest 10 March 2021

Ministers continue to mislead Parliament over Covid contracts

Instead of coming to the House, apologising and setting the record straight about Boris Johnson’s falsehood that all the Covid-related contract details are “on the record”, yesterday Cabinet Office Minister Edward Argar decided to double down – claiming “the Prime Minister spoke accurately” on 22 February.

But he did not. 

According to his own lawyers 100 Covid-related contracts were missing at the time Boris Johnson spoke – he failed to disclose this – and weeks later Government continues to sneak out contracts awarded in April 2020, that hitherto were nowhere on the record. Now it transpires that one of these previously hidden contracts – worth a whopping £22.6 million – was awarded without competition to Tory-linked firm: Bunzl Healthcare

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Lord Feldman, former Conservative Party Chair, worked as an unpaid adviser to Health Minister Lord Bethell between March 24 and May 15 last year – whilst also running a lobbying firm. One of the clients of that lobbying firm was – you guessed it – Bunzl Healthcare.

When this potential conflict of interest was aired in November 2020, Bunzl dismissed the concerns stating:

“Bunzl did not receive any orders for PPE from the central government procurement process convened by the Cabinet Office during the pandemic’. 

What we learned, from a contract that was published unlawfully late and whose existence the Prime Minister denied, is that Bunzl were awarded a contract in April 2020 – during the period that Feldman advised Bethell.

We’ve approached the Government and Bunzl for comment about this direct award, so far neither has obliged.

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