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SNP MP proposes bill to ‘end rampant Tory cronyism’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, London. - Credit: PA

An SNP MP is proposing a bill to parliament which he hopes would end the “growing culture of secrecy and cronyism at the heart of government”.

Owen Thompson says that the Ministerial Interests (Emergency Powers) Bill would “force government ministers to answer questions about any personal, political or financial connections they may have to a company that is awarded a government contract.”

“It is appalling that while in-work poverty increases, billions of pounds in public contracts have been handed out like sweeties to friends and associates of the Tories with little to no transparency.

“Companies and individuals with questionable experience, but with unquestionable links to power, have been fast-tracked towards big money deals to supply life-saving equipment for our healthcare professionals. More than ten billion worth of contracts were awarded without competition by the end of last July alone, a staggering amount of which has been wasted.

MORE: This chumocracy is costing our country

“I understand the need for the UK government to act swiftly during a global health pandemic, but it is reckless to award vital contracts to people and companies without the relevant experience.”

Last year a National Audit Office report into procurement during the coronavirus crisis confirmed the existence of a “high priority” lane with recommendations of firms for personal protective equipment (PPE) from government officials, ministers’ offices, MPs and members of the House of Lords, amongst others.

In one instance a former Tory minister was accused of breaking ministerial code when he started working for a PPE firm shortly after leaving government.

Thompson explained: “My bill, if passed, will help to ensure that the right people and companies get the jobs and help to combat the Tory ‘cronyism’ that is rife in Westminster.

“It will give ministers the chance to be public and upfront about why the contract is being given to an old school chum, their local pub landlord, a colleague’s wife or Tory donor. If they are the best person for the job, it will be clear from their credentials, skills and their record. There is nothing to fear from this bill if there is nothing to hide.”

He continued: “I would urge the UK government and MPs from all parties to back my bill and enshrine this simple measure into law. If the Tory government have nothing to hide they will back my bill and enshrine in law this simple measure. Those of us asking questions are not going to go away.”

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