"Government must get a grip and clarify whether UK is part of EU PPE scheme"

21 April 2020, 18:54 | Updated: 21 April 2020, 18:56

By Fiona Jones

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran demanded the government "get a grip" and give clarity on whether the UK is part of the EU PPE scheme after Matt Hancock and a senior civil servant made entirely opposing comments today.

Ms Moran said she was "incredibly bewildered and quite disappointed" by the conflicting narratives surrounding the UK government's failure to join the EU's PPE procurement scheme.

In Tuesday's press conference Matt Hancock reiterated the government's stance that this was not a political decision - instead a communication error in the form of an unseen email was to be blamed for the missed opportunity.

This is shortly after a senior civil servant Sir Simon McDonald said ministers took the "political decision" not to join despite being briefed about "what was on offer" in the scheme.

Ms Moran called the "excuse" of a lost email "either incompetent or negligent...they started back-pedalling then after Matt Hancock had said already on a Question Time programme that we were part of the scheme.

"I almost don't care. I don't care if they missed an email, I don't care if someone made a decision and they went back on it," she said.

Matt Hancock said he did accept the EU's invitation to be part of the PPE scheme
Matt Hancock said he did accept the EU's invitation to be part of the PPE scheme. Picture: PA

"What I want to know, which we still don't have clarity on because we have not had an unambiguous statement on government, is whether or not the UK is participating in both the ventilator procurement and the PPE scheme."

Ms Moran said she has had care workers in her constituency crying because they are going into work and feel unprotected and "they don't understand why on earth the government would choose for any reason, political or otherwise, to not access every vehicle possible to get them that protective equipment they need.

"It is just, I think, inexcusable that they are at this state of incompetence now. We just need to get a grip."

Layla Moran coined the phrase "Brexit before breathing" and she felt this phrase could be applied as it seemed to be the only explanation unless the senior civil servant was incorrect in his statement.

She said this was unlikely because civil servants are extremely adept and "know their stuff."

"I do think the government needs to now put this ideology aside - we just need to join whatever scheme necessary by any way necessary to keep our people safe."