UK Crony Capitalism: It never stops

13 May 2021 — Good Law Project

Good Law Project has uncovered remarkable evidence that a Tory Minister brought a former Chair of the Tory Party, a man who now runs a lobbying firm, into the heart of Government to work on the massive multi-billion PPE procurement process. Having got his feet under the table that former Chair lobbied to win PPE contracts for at least one, and possibly a number, of clients of his lobbying firm.

The Tory Minister is Lord Bethell. The former Tory Party Chair is Lord Feldman – once described as David Cameron’s oldest and best friend – and he worked for Bethell from 23 March to 15 May 2020. And his huge lobbying firm is Tulchan, whose client list includes Bunzl Healthcare.

Bunzl was given a £22.6m PPE contract by the Department for Health without any competition in April 2020, smack bang in the middle of the period Feldman was working with Bethell. And we have also learned, from Government’s own documents, that:

  • Feldman was involved in the award of this contract. Bunzl had been removed from the Department for Health’s ‘approved suppliers list’ – and Feldman got them back on. An email from Feldman to Bunzl on 22 March 2020 states that he was acting as “an unpaid advisor to Matthew Hancock at the department of health…but that there have been some historic issues which mean that you have been removed from the approved suppliers list. I would like to remedy that as soon as possible”.
  • On the same day, he emailed Bunzl, copying in Andrew Wood whom he describes as “the person leading the accelerated procurement process in Cabinet Office” and said “I have spoken to him [Andy Wood] about Bunzl and the opportunity for you to supply the UK Government with equipment. He will be in touch”.
  • And then, several days later, when Bunzl thought the deal was not progressing quickly enough, it asked Feldman to intervene – which he did. On 25 March Feldman wrote directly to the line manager of the official dealing with Bunzl, encouraging him to expedite the contract award process: “We need to move quickly”.

We fear these revelations just scratch the surface. We have seen Lord Feldman’s ‘Declarations of interest form’ and it contains a list of his other conflicts of interest. But Government has concealed these other names:

“some of our clients [Tulchan Communication LLP], as well as many other companies are offering assistance to the government during the covid-19 crisis. This includes [REDACTED], Bunzl, [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED]”.

Despite requests from our lawyers Government is refusing to confirm which other companies linked to Cameron’s oldest friend and his lobbying firm Tulchan Communications were introduced to Government and/or won public contracts.

We have now launched formal Judicial Review proceedings. If you would like to help us challenge this extraordinary abuse of power – you can do so here.

We are publishing the Judicial Review Bundle we’ve submitted to the Court. Our amended Statement of Facts and Grounds and my Witness Statement are well worth a read.

Thank you,

Jo Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project

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