Tories used “VIP lane” to award their friends millions in PPE contracts, leaked list shows

A leaked report published this week reveals how several Conservative peers and MPs funnelled companies towards a “VIP lane” for PPE contracts, with many of these firms holding personal connections to these politicians. The report, published by Politico, listed 47 companies who had been referred for preferential treatment in the provision of personal protection equipment (PPE) early in the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these referrers were Conservatives, including MPs Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Penny Mordaunt, and Esther McVey; and peers Michelle Mone, Andrew Feldman, Theodore Agnew, and Paul Deighton.

Officially, such a “VIP lane” was to ensure speedy acquisition of PPE in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, with the government claiming this “was widely advertised across Government as a way of more quickly triaging offers of support”. However, it also provided certain Conservatives the ability to give their friends and associates millions in the form of contracts. The National Audit Office has revealed that VIP companies were ten times as likely to win contracts early in the pandemic, and the list of referrers holds a significant Tory presence compared to no successful referrs by members of other parties.

Perhaps the most stark example of Tory corruption in this list was Michelle Mone, a peer who referred the company PPE Medpro – a company that was only incorporated in May 2020, weeks before it won £200 million in contracts. It just so happens that one of PPE Medpro’s directors is Anthony Paige, who also directs Knox House Trust. Said trust belongs to Knox Group, which is run by none other than Michelle Mone’s own husband, Douglas Barrowman. Mone’s lawyer previously said the peer had played no role “in the process by which the contracts were awarded”, yet with this recent revelation, such a claim has been proven false.

Another blatantly corrupt referral comes from Michael Gove, currently the Tories’ secretary of state for ‘levelling up’, housing and communities. Gove referred the firm Meller Designs, co-owned at the time by Tory donor David Meller. Meller has donated almost £60,000 to the Conservatives since 2009, including £3,250 towards Gove’s 2016 party leadership run. Meller even served as that campaign’s chair of finance. Following the refferal by Gove, Meller Designs went on to win six contracts from the Department of Health and Social Care, worth £160 million.

Then there is Andrew Feldman, a Tory peer who referred three companies, most notably SG Recruitment. SG Recruitment (now Named Sumner Group Health) belongs to parent company Sumner Group Holdings, and who is the director of Sumner Group Holdings? Only another Tory peer, Peter Gummer of course!

This “VIP lane” may have been labelled a means to acquire PPE to safeguard our carers, nurses and doctors, but it was in reality nothing of the sort. It served instead as a means for certain Tories to give back to their rich friends and benefactors. We have in the Conservative Party a group entirely uninterested in working for the public good, but instead in seizing every opportunity they can to further enrich their social circle of corporate elites.

Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

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