A politically-connected firm received a multi-million pound contract to provide Covid tests at the height of the pandemic after direct lobbying from a Conservative MP.
As part of our ongoing fight to uncover the truth about the firms that benefited from lucrative VIP Lane Covid testing contracts, we can reveal that SureScreen Diagnostics Ltd was awarded a £503 million deal to provide lateral flow antigen tests after heavy prompting from Dr Liam Fox.
The North Somerset MP sent an email to then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock on 22 June 2020, in which he pushed for Public Health England (PHE) to get in contact with SureScreen.
“Hi Matt, as you probably know, one of the British companies exporting huge numbers of antibody tests is Derbyshire-based SureScreen. They have performed extremely well in internationally conducted trials,” the email read.
SureScreen faced one major problem: it had not yet been approved by PHE, and without that approval, it would not be able to secure a contract to supply the NHS.
Dr Fox had been made aware of this by the company’s director David Campbell, who had pressed for the products to be approved the same day the email was sent to Mr Hancock.
“Would it be possible to send this on to the PHE and ask them to be in touch with the company,” wrote Dr Fox. “As we enter the next phase I don’t think the British people would understand or approve of the widespread export of this capability when we have a huge need at home.”
In January 2021, the Department for Health and Social Care announced SureScreen’s tests had been approved and that it had been awarded a two-year contract, without competition, to provide 20 million Covid tests to the NHS, costing £503 million .
After securing the contract, the firm’s profits promptly jumped from £1.5 to £67 million, “as a result of the reward of a new contract”.
In June 2022, Dr Fox received a five-figure donation from SureScreen. The generous contribution of £20,000 was given directly to the MP, and registered two weeks later.
Good Law Project obtained the email sent by Dr Fox to Mr Hancock through a Freedom of Information request.
We know that 50 companies with close links to Ministers, Peers and Government officials were given preferential treatment through a VIP Lane for Test and Trace contracts, as part of the Government’s £37 billion programme. We are continuing to pressure the UK Health Security Agency to publish both the names of companies who received priority treatment and the names of those who referred them.
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