Piers Morgan has criticised government decisions to award controversial contracts over Covid-19 which has left the taxpayer “reaping the ruin financially”.
Morgan was interviewing business secretary Alok Sharma on Good Morning Britain after it was revealed that £21 million was awarded to a Spanish businessman to act as a “go-between” in a contract which worked with Chinese manufacturers creating gloves and gowns.
But they were unable to fulfil the contract reportedly due to a supply problem in China.
Asked by Morgan about the government’s decision to award a “stratospheric amount of money to a middle man”, Sharma dodged the detail.
He said: “As I understand, that was a contract that was looked at by the Department of Health. But if I take you back to some months ago, there was huge pressure to get PPE into the system, quite rightly.
“Every single government around the world was fighting for PPE, to get their hands on PPE, and get it to the frontline. And at Downing Street press conferences, I was asked quite rightly when we are going to get PPE.”
But Morgan snapped back: “The fundamental point is contrary to what Matt Hancock said in January in parliament, we were not prepared for this, and in particular not prepared, despite having a pandemic exercise four years earlier which revealed chronic shortage of PPE, the Conservative government did nothing to replenish this stock.
“Which meant we then had to go out into the market place to pay these middle-men tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to catch up because we weren’t prepared.”
He added: “We simply weren’t prepared, were we? And the taxpayer is now reaping the ruin financially of that, that money should be going to the NHS, not coming out of it, not coming out of it paying middle-men for dodgy deals on PPE.”
Referencing a National Audit Office report on Covid-19 contracts, Sharma said that it recognised the government “had acted at pace” to get the equipment needed for the pandemic.
He said: “There was an eight-process check in terms of individual contracts, and of course, all public contracts ultimately set out and published and are available in due course in the appropriate time and that will happen.
“But I think the fundamental point is we worked really hard to get PPE on the front line. Where 1% of PPE used was produced in the UK, we now have 70%, so we have made an effort.”
As Sharma ended the interview, Morgan continued to fume. “How much more money have they wasted on these people because we simply weren’t prepared for a pandemic, even though we had a pandemic exercise in which we prepared for a pandemic. It’s incredible.”