Daniel Barnett 9pm - 10pm
Labour urges firms with Conservative Party links to publish Covid-19 contract profits
7 February 2021, 22:45 | Updated: 7 February 2021, 22:46
Accusations of cronyism have led Labour to urge companies with links to the Conservative Party to publish their profits made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Research by the Opposition suggests the value of contracts awarded to firms with links to the Tories amounts to almost £2 billion.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves is expected to reveal on Monday that she has written to major firms with political links that secured contracts during the pandemic in a bid to reveal their profit levels.
She will also call for taxpayer money to be clawed back by the Government if the contracts have failed to be delivered fully, and outline proposals to boost transparency for outsourcing and the tendering process.
National spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) last November published a scathing report which criticised how transparency had been set aside by ministers during the crisis.
The report says firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers' offices were given priority as the Government sought PPE for the NHS in the first wave.
Ms Reeves is due to deliver a speech at Labour's central London headquarters on Monday accusing the Government of having "eroded" public services and "what it means to be an honourable and transparent" government.
She will say: "The beating heart of our country is the key workers who have kept us going through this last year. That's why we applauded them.
"Children weren't banging pots and pans for management consultants. They were clapping our key workers.
"The public is also paying a high price for this Government's mismanagement and waste. This current Tory Party is rife with conflicts of interest. It's all cheques and no balances.
"People expect all of us seeking government to spend their money with care and respect - and a Labour government will.
"Labour will clean up government contracting by strengthening FOI, introducing a new Independent Anti-Corruption Commissioner, and an Integrity and Ethics Commission to make us a world leader in good governance and transparency."
The Conservative Party accused Labour of attempting to "score political points" with Ms Reeves' intervention - but did not deny the claims.
"Throughout the pandemic, British businesses have worked with our public services to help in the fight against coronavirus by delivering a wide variety of support, including PPE, hand sanitiser and ventilators," a Tory spokeswoman said.
"Yet at every turn throughout the pandemic, Labour have tried to play politics and score political points.
"The Conservatives are getting on with the job, rolling out the vaccine and delivering on our commitments."
A Government spokesman said ministers "make no apology" for its decisions to procure PPE rapidly in the spring of last year.
They said: "As the National Audit Office has made clear, there is no evidence of ministerial involvement in procurement decisions or contract management.
"We have robust rules and processes in place in order to ensure that conflicts of interest do not occur.
"Contracts are awarded on a combination of price and quality, not the political or other affiliations of owners or stakeholders."
"During this unprecedented global pandemic, we have needed to procure contracts with extreme urgency to secure the vital supplies required to protect frontline NHS workers and the public. We make no apology for that."