Norwich MP “corruption” claim over multi-million pound Covid contracts

MP Clive Lewis has called for more to be done to bring UK nationals home. PHOTO: Matt Crossick/ EMPI

MP Clive Lewis has called for more to be done to bring UK nationals home. PHOTO: Matt Crossick/ EMPICS Entertainment. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

A Norwich MP has claimed hundreds of millions of pounds of coronavirus funding has been “frittered away” to consultants with links to the members of the government.

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, criticised the government for its handling of contracts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month a National Audit Office report showed £10.5bn worth of contracts were handed out without competitive tender and "suppliers with political connections were 10 times more likely to be awarded contracts".

NHS workers wearing full PPE Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

NHS workers wearing full PPE. - Credit: PA

Questioning ministers in the House of Commons, Mr Lewis said: "Given that this government has doled out 10-and-a-half billion pounds of our money without any competition, according to the National Audit Office, frittered hundreds of millions on consultants and individuals whose main qualification seems to be they are friends of members of this Government, does the minister agree with me that, in any other part of this world, this would be called corruption, plain and simple?"

In response Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez told the Commons: "It's very important to understand that actually every contract went through the same eight-stage process where it was looked into and it was done on the grounds of commercial sense, rather than anything to do with any connections.

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"As the NAO report said, ministers declared all interests and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing."

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez - Credit: Archant

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last month used prime minister questions to slam Boris Johnson over his government's lack of "basic accountability" over private contracts

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Giving the example of a company awarded “about £150 million” to produce face masks, he claimed the government has “a lax attitude to taxpayers’ money”, adding: “How many usable face masks were actually provided to NHS workers on the front line under that contract?”

In response Boris Johnson said he was "proud" of the way the government got supplies at the start of the pandemic.

He told MPs: “It is the private sector that in the end makes the PPE, it is the private sector that provides the testing equipment, and it is the private sector that, no matter how much the party opposite may hate them, it is the private sector that provides the vaccines and the scientific breakthroughs.”

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