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Covid-19: PPE Procurement

Volume 724: debated on Tuesday 6 December 2022

1. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the steps taken by his Department to secure value for money in procuring PPE during the covid-19 outbreak. (902607)

We procured personal protective equipment at pace so that we could protect the frontline and save lives. In a highly distorted market, we worked around the clock to secure the life-saving PPE that we needed.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the high-profile reports in the media regarding Baroness Mone and her connection with PPE Medpro, contact with Government Ministers and the use of a VIP lane in relation to the procurement of PPE. Will he assure me—and more importantly the public—that a full and thorough investigation will take place into these matters and that, following that investigation, the report will be made public?

I can do much better than that. We have commissioned a full investigation and inquiry into the Government’s handling of covid and, as part of that, I am sure that the inquiry will look at PPE. But it is important to put it into context. We secured 23.2 billion items of PPE, which was a huge step, done at pace, to help protect our frontline.

There are concerns that officials and high-ranking associates have reaped the financial benefits of a deadly disease, shamelessly profiteering on public funds. The SNP has long sought to highlight the Government’s rampant cronyism and corruption, and this PPE plundering is the most egregious case that we have seen so far. In Scotland, the Scottish Government have robust procedures in place to ensure protection of procurement in healthcare. How will the Secretary of State better regulate the cronyism of his colleagues? Will he commit now to scrapping the UK Government’s VIP lane for healthcare contracts?

Again, that ignores both the pressure of time at the start of the pandemic and the fact that there was international competition, with companies competing for scarce resources. It is also the case that although more than 19,000 companies were offering PPE, only 2,600 passed initial due diligence checks.