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Unusable PPE

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 19 July 2022

12. If he will make an estimate with Cabinet colleagues of the amount of unusable PPE procured by the Government since the outbreak of covid-19. (901160)

22. If he will make an estimate with Cabinet colleagues of the amount of unusable PPE procured by Government since the outbreak of covid-19. (901171)

Around 3% of PPE that the Department purchased was unusable. We are working to dispose of this unusable stock in the most environmentally friendly way.

I am grateful for that response. From the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, the Scottish Government have worked with the NHS and Scottish suppliers, as well as on a four-nation basis, to ensure that Scotland has adequate stocks of PPE. In Scotland, 88% of PPE is produced locally, and the overall cost of pandemic procurement was a third less than for the UK. The Scottish Government have committed to retaining powerful safeguards on the use of public money in healthcare through strong procurement rules. Will the UK Government follow suit and replicate this ethical model?

I am very interested to hear from the hon. Lady, because according to The Herald on Sunday recently, half a billion pounds-worth of procurement in Scotland during the pandemic did not go through the usual scrutiny process. I would be very interested to hear her update on that.

The Public Accounts Committee found that there is £4 billion-worth of unusable, substandard PPE in storage, which is due to be incinerated, which is hardly environmentally friendly. While cronies and donors were fast-tracked, this substandard PPE put frontline workers’ lives at risk by preventing them from accessing the right equipment. How much of that £4 billion will be recovered, and what other actions are being pursued against these so-called suppliers?

To put this in context, I make no apologies for all the efforts that were made to secure PPE for frontline staff. We delivered more than 21.5 billion items of PPE to keep frontline staff safe during a time when we had a dangerous virus that no one knew anything about, we had no vaccine and there was a global push on the market resources. Those products that we procured that did not meet the standards for health and social care were used in other avenues. For example, we donated masks to transport operators and to schools, so that we could reopen the economy and to help them to keep safe.

While the Tories flogged off PPE contracts to party donors and friends of Ministers through their unlawful VIP PPE lane, the Scottish Government’s processes ensured value for money, as we have heard; their PPE costs were less than a third of the UK Government’s. Will the UK Government follow Scotland’s example in future, and refuse to engage in cronyism and corruption?

I outlined in my answer to the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) that around half a billion-worth of pounds of procurement in Scotland did not go through the usual channels. All offers that were identified, regardless of route, underwent rigorous financial, commercial, legal and policy assessment, led by officials, and the final decision on whether to enter a contract sat with the appropriate accounting officer at the Department.