Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Gove 'misused emergency Covid funds' to conduct polling on union
23 June 2021, 17:44
Michael Gove has been accused of misusing emergency Covid funds following reports he used a £560,000 contract to conduct polling on the union.
The cabinet minister commissioned the research under the cover of an emergency contract given to the firm Public First, The Herald reported.
According to the newspaper, services were extended to cover "qualitative research into EU exit topics and themes, re-building the economy following the Covid-19 crisis and attitudes to the UK union".
The decision to award the contract to the firm, whose bosses were friends of ex-No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings, has previously been ruled unlawful by the High Court.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked Boris Johnson to commit to a “full public inquiry” at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
He said in the Commons: "These emergency Covid contracts were supposed to be used for things like PPE for our brave doctors and for nurses fighting Covid.
"Instead, during the height of this deadly pandemic the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster used these emergency contracts to commission political research - and I quote - on attitudes to the UK union.
"What's worse, he handed these lucrative contracts to long-term friends and former employees. In essence: this was a UK Government contract that sanctioned corrupt campaigning, Prime Minister.
"If the Prime Minister has even a shred of credibility, will he now commit to a full public inquiry on this gross misuse of public funds?"
Mr Johnson said that he was not aware of the contract.
He added: "I can't think of a better use of public funds than making sure that the whole of the UK fights the Covid pandemic together.
"I believe that the story of these last two years has shown the incalculable value of our union and the strength of our union, and we are better together."