A Labour MP has clashed with a Tory minister after saying Boris Johnson had a “pattern of behaviour” wasting taxpayers’ funds.
Shadow housing and communities minister Steve Reed said the prime minister had a track record of spending public funds on projects that were either scrapped or seen as inefficient.
Reed also said the Tory party had ignored “due process” after it emerged it distributed £10 billion of government contracts without open tender.
A damning report by the National Audit Office found that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suppliers with connections to the Conservatives were given a “high-priority” channel where bids for government contacts were ten times more likely to win.
Appearing on BBC Two’s Politics Live, junior business minister Kwasi Kwarteng defended the government saying it had provided frontline workers with billions of PPE items.
“I can’t believe Kwasi can believe what he just said,” Reed rebutted. “There was an absolute need to go at speed but going at speed doesn’t mean showering public money over friends of Conservative Party politicians as if it’s confetti.
“£10 billion of taxpayers money was spent without any due process. No competitive tendering whatsoever and 500 potential suppliers were put on the priority list for preferential treatment because they had favoured relationships with Conservative Party politicians.
“If you follow that road to its logical conclusion, it leads you to corruption. It’s absolutely not acceptable that there should be no regard for public procurement rules.”
The shadow minister reflected: “Under this prime minister, I’m afraid there’s been a pattern of behaviour. When he was the mayor of London, we all remember the Garden Bridge, £50 million spent on a bridge that never even existed, bypassing public procurement rules.
“He’s showing the exact same cavalier attitude towards public money from number 10 Downing Street except this time it’s billions.”
Kwarteng somberly replied: “What I would say is look at the outcome, look at what exactly happened.” The MP said Labour agreed to bypass procurement rules which he claimed helped speed up the distribution of PPE.
“It’s been an unprecedented effort,” the Tory MP said, adding: “There have been some wins but we need to look at the process and take any criticism on board -“
Reed cut in: “We were calling for things to be done faster, not for billions of pounds to be showered on Conservative cronies.”
When Kwarteng continued to defend the government, Reed interrupted again: “How can you justify preferential treatment for suppliers who were mates of Conservative MPs?”
“I’m not saying that there were lots of Conservative MPs or whoever these companies are -“, the MP said.
“He can’t” rebutted Reed.
Presenter Jo Coburn pointed out that the National Audit Office report had specified ministers were not involved in deciding suppliers, at which point guest and BBC political reporter Laura Keunnesburg said: “It’s messy… yet it doesn’t mean that any government gets to chuck the rule book out the window.”