Thursday 25 November 2021 / 1:12 PM Angela Rayner

Labour accuses Government of a corruption cover-up over £3.5 billion of Tory-linked Covid contracts

  • Minister cannot say whether missing minutes have been found or documents will be released
  • Angela Rayner warns almost £600m in Randox contracts “tip of the Conservative corruption iceberg” and demands independent investigation

Labour has today accused the Government of another cover-up after Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay refused to publish meeting minutes and correspondence relating to £3.5 billion of Covid contracts that were awarded without tender to companies with links to the Conservative Party.

At Cabinet Office Questions this morning, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster demanded that the Government publish “all the emails, WhatsApps, messages, correspondence and meeting minutes between Government Ministers, special advisers, MPs and the companies”.

Pressed on publication of the minutes of a meeting between former MP Owen Paterson, Randox and the then health minister Lord Bethell, which the Government had admitted they were “unable to locate” last week.

Barclay refused to answer whether the minutes has been found since, or when other documents would be released. He said that the National Audit Office “had power to access any document”.

Warning that the Randox lobbying scandal could be the “tip of the Conservative corruption iceberg”, Labour is demanding an independent investigation into these contracts to get to the bottom of how they were awarded, after the Government admitted it could not locate the minutes to a meeting between Randox, Owen Paterson and a Health Minister.

Labour is demanding that a new independent investigation includes:

  • Which Conservative Ministers were involved in decisions that saw contracts awarded to Conservative donors and companies linked to the Conservative Party;
  • What role lobbying by Conservative MPs paid as consultants and advisers played in the awarding of contracts;
  • What the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer and other senior Ministers knew about these contracts being awarded to Conservative donors and cronies;
  • The operation of the VIP lane for PPE contracts, including publication of communications from Conservative MPs referring companies to the VIP lane;
  • How much of the taxpayers’ money that went to Conservative Party donors and friends of the Conservative Party was wasted on useless and unsafe PPE;
  • The details of all emails, WhatsApps, messages, correspondence and meetings involving these contracts after it emerged Lord Bethell deleted WhatsApp messages related to the awarding of contracts and the Government did not have minutes of a meeting between Randox, Paterson and Bethell.

Angela Rayner MPLabour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said:

“The Randox corruption scandal could be the tip of the Conservative corruption iceberg. Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been handed to Conservative donors and companies with links to Conservative Ministers and we need to know what role paid lobbying, secret meeting and cosy WhatsApp chats played in these contracts.

“Ministers are launching another cover-up so we need a full independent investigation to get to the bottom of this racket.

“Public money must be treated with respect, not handed out in backhand deals that line the pockets of Conservative donors.

“While the corrupt Conservatives really do think there’s one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us Labour will clean up our politics. Labour will ban MPs from taking second jobs as consultants and advisers when they should be serving their constituents, ban Ministers from taking on lobbying gigs after they leave office for at least five years and establish an Office for Value for Money, to make sure that every pound of taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.”