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The new Conservative Party Chairman, Greg Hands, helped Luxe Lifestyle Ltd, a company closely associated with the then Chair of his local constituency party, Mark Higton, land a £25m ‘VIP’ PPE deal. This is despite the company having no experience in providing protective equipment.
The contract was awarded without any formal competition and £20m worth of PPE supplied via the deal remains unused.
Emails obtained by Good Law Project reveal Greg Hands was approached on his personal email account by Mark Higton – the then chairman of the Hammersmith Conservatives – on 7 April 2020. Three days later, Mr Hands passed the offer onto officials, and Luxe Lifestyle were subsequently awarded a £25m contract to supply gowns and masks during the same month.
Furthermore, multiple DHSC internal documents repeatedly used the reference ‘Minister Hands / Luxe Lifestyles’ when referring to the name of the PPE supplier. Even more remarkably, Mark Higton was frequently described as the ‘Main Supplier Contact’.
When the DHSC initially published the names of the ‘VIP’ suppliers in November 2021 it listed ‘Minster Hands’ [sic] as the winner of the PPE deal. The Tory Chairman’s name was subsequently removed – but not before being captured by the Wayback Machine, which archives historical webpages.
Luxe Lifestyle was incorporated in 2018 by the American Karen Brost. Prior to the pandemic, the firm had zero employees and was £9000 in debt. We don’t know how much profit Luxe – or whoever was really behind the firm – made from the £25m deal. The firm is a year late in publishing its annual accounts and has now applied to Companies House to be struck off the register.
However, following an FOI from Spotlight on Corruption, we do know that Luxe Lifestyle supplied almost 10m items of PPE valued at £20m, which remains unused by the NHS.
When we first approached Mark Higton, he claimed he had ‘never solicited Greg Hands in regards to PPE on behalf of others.’ The emails we have seen record Higton directly approaching Hands on behalf of a third party selling PPE and Ventilators.
Higton was also a director of Covid testing company, ‘Luxe Life Care Ltd’, before it dissolved in December 2022. Three months after incorporation, the box-fresh firm was awarded a place on the Government’s mammoth £15bn ‘diagnostic testing services’ framework.
A Government spokesperson said:
“Ministers had no involvement in any procurement decisions. During the pandemic, potential suppliers often passed on offers of PPE to MPs, civil servants and ministers. These offers for support were passed to procurement teams for assessment.”
We will continue to investigate and uncover more and more of the PPE scandal. We can only do this with your support. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.