UK Crony Capitalism: They want to keep this secret

16 November 2021 — Goodlaw Project

A leaked document has revealed which Conservative MPs and Peers funnelled companies through a ‘VIP lane’ for lucrative PPE contracts, without competition. A staggering £1.6 billion worth of contracts were awarded as a result of referrals from just ten politicians at the heart of the Conservative party. The leaked list of the 47 companies in the VIP lane, first seen by Politico, can be found here.

Michael Gove MP, Matt Hancock MP, Esther McVey MP, and Steve Brine MP are among the Conservative politicians who referred companies to the VIP lane. Those lucky enough to receive this VIP treatment were more than ten times more likely to win a contract than companies that went without.

Government claimed that the VIP lane for PPE contracts “was widely advertised across Government as a way of more quickly triaging offers of support”. But the explosive list of companies in the ‘VIP lane’ shows that no other political party successfully referred companies via this fast-tracked route.

Some of the VIP lane companies have close links with Conservative party politicians. Take PPE Medpro. The company was founded by the former business associate of Conservative Peer Baroness Mone. It won two huge contracts, worth £200 million, just weeks after it was set up.

A lawyer for Baroness Mone previously claimed that she hadn’t “had any role or function in the company, or in the process by which the contracts were awarded”. The leaked information does suggest, however, that she was the source of the referral of PPE Medpro to the VIP lane.

Good Law Project has been battling for months to learn the identities of the lucky beneficiaries of the VIP sweepstake. It’s not hard to see why the Government wanted to keep things under wraps, given these new details, including:

  • Michael Gove referred Meller Designs, the firm of Conservative donorDavid Meller, to the VIP lane. The company subsequently landed over £160 million in PPE deals.
  • Lord Feldman referred SG Recruitment to the VIP lane. The Conservative Peer Lord Chadlington sits on the Board of its parent company, Sumner Group Holdings Limited. They landed £50 million in PPE contracts.
  • Dominic Cummings is named as the referrer of Global United Trading. The company landed a £350k PPE contract.

Michael Gove claimed there was “no evidence” of cronyism when it came to Covid procurement. That feels like a pretty punchy claim given these shocking revelations which lay bare the huge financial advantages of having a Tory looking out for your interests.

There are doubtless more stories to come, as we pore over the details of the lucky beneficiaries of this red carpet to riches. We will keep you updated.

Thank you,

Jo Maugham – Good Law Project

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