Amazon and Serco are among a number of businesses to receive government help with New Year Honours nominations even though they are at the centre of a row over Covid contracts, a major Whitehall leak has revealed.
The Sun reports officials asked the companies to nominate staff members for the award in a list they accidentally leaked.
The top civil servant at the Business department wrote to firms including Capita, investment giants Blackrock and BP. Tech giants Facebook, Google and Apple were also given the nod.
Serco boss Rupert Soames also received the letter, as were consulting giants Mckinsey, PWC and Deloitte and Bain. Vaccine producers AstraZeneca and Pfizer were also asked to nominate staff.
Sarah Munby, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) permanent secretary, wrote: “I would like to invite you to submit Honours nominations on behalf of your organisation as well as for any other individuals you think worthy of recognition.”
She then invited the bosses to online classes on “how to master and award honours nomination”.
Munby also shared the personal contact details of some of Britain’s most powerful business bosses in the email accidentally CC’d to all of them on Wednesday morning.
The email addresses of leading union bosses were also included in the blunder.
The leak appears to have broken GDPR rules and comes as ministers are under fire for a number of Covid contracts awarded to private companies.
It also follows a report by MPs that found “no clear evidence” the £22 billion Test and Trace scheme contributed to a reduction in coronavirus infection levels.
Rachel Reeves MP, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, branded the letter “unbelievable”.
She added: “The Conservatives’ priorities: a pay cut for our nurses and a gong for Serco. The mask is slipping.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This is beggars belief.
“On the day Test & Trace was slammed for costing the taxpayer billions while failing to control this horrific virus its staggering government were offering to spray gongs around like confetti to firms involved.
“Ministers should be focusing on fixing Test and Trace not offering up rewards for failure.”
BEIS has since apologised to the firms.
They said: “As part of the New Year’s Honours process, we work with a wide range of business groups and other stakeholders to encourage an ever-increasingly wide and diverse spread of nominations.
“But to be clear, these emails do not indicate that any specific individual is being actively considered for New Year’s Honours and any nominations received still need to go through a comprehensive, independent consideration process.
“BEIS takes its information and data handling responsibilities very seriously under the UK GDPR. We have contacted the parties concerned to apologise for the error and taken steps to mitigate any further incidents.”