Matt Hancock’s department has signed off on two Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) deals worth more than £90million with a state-backed Chinese firm listed at a hotel room in Beijing, new documents show.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) struck two lucrative contracts during the first coronavirus wave with Beijing Union Glory Investment Co Ltd, whose address is listed as Room 9401A, Guobin Hotel, No9 Fuwai Street, Xicheng District, the Metro reports.
The largest amount was £69.9million, paid for surgical theatre gowns in a contract signed in May 2020. Under the terms, 70% of the contracts were to be paid by transfer through China Everbright Bank within three working days of the deal being struck.
A second contract for gowns worth £26.4million was signed in April with similar down-payment terms, except this time a payment had to be made within two working days. This purchase was made for the British Embassy in Beijing on behalf of the UK government.
The Metro said the closest hotel was the opulent Presidential Beijing, also known as the Guobin, which lies in the business district, although the postcode is a few digits different.
The grand hotel has 486 bedrooms, including the Royal, Presidential and State suites, which offer a 24-hour butler service, and three executive floors which boast “bespoke facilities, business tools and complementary services”.
The suites are billed as offering “an exclusive, discreet environment in which to fuse business or leisure with unsurpassed pleasure”, while guests can also make use of a grand ballroom.
A source familiar with the district told the Metro the address provided by Beijing Union Glory is the same as the location given on the hotel’s website.
The Presidential did not reply to a request for comment.
Both contracts were heavily redacted with quantities and united prices blacked out.
MP Matt Western said companies that repurposed their operations to respond to the pandemic have been dealt a “kick in the teeth” after being overlooked in favour of contractors in China and Turkey.
Western, who represents Warwick and Leamington, said: “I have called for the firms in my constituency – and others across the UK that suffered financially after being overlooked for PPE contracts – to be reimbursed by the government and prioritised for any future NHS contracts.
“The secretive big money deals reached with foreign firms like Beijing Union Glory in China is a kick in the teeth for them.
“Firms like Contechs in my constituency have taken a big hit as a result of this betrayal after the government’s ‘call to arms’ in April.
“They invested heavily to develop and manufacture PPE here in the UK, expanding manufacturing space and sourcing capital equipment only to be told at the last minute they would not be successful.
“It is infuriating to hear about the DHSC signing off contracts with Conservative Party donors, companies with no prior experience and chums of the secretary of state – with the equipment purchased sometimes unusable.
“And now profiteering ‘middle-men’ dealing with Turkish and Chinese companies are granted contracts rather than the government sourcing directly from our UK companies with UK employees making high-quality products at similar or lower cost.”
Last month, the High Court ruled Matt Hancock acted unlawfully by not releasing Covid contracts within a 30-day deadline.
The DHSC defended the move, saying it took “advantage of every avenue to get PPE into the country” at a time when supplies were short. Hancock said he would break the law again in the “national interest”.
The department says it conducted “proper due diligence” and order equipment in line with UK health standards.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to the frontline.
“Over 8.8 billion items have been delivered so far and almost 32 billion items have been ordered to provide a continuous supply, which will meet the future needs of health and social care staff.
“Proper due diligence is carried out for all government contracts and we take these checks extremely seriously.
“All offers were prioritised based on volume, price, meeting clinical standards and the time it will take from an offer being accepted by DHSC to the supplier delivering those items.”