Minister claims it's 'politicisation' to question 'cronynism' over contracts

Alex Chalk on BBC's Politics Live

Alex Chalk on BBC's Politics Live - Credit: BBC

A minister has hit out at the "politicisation" around questions about contracts and public funding being handed to associates of the Tory party.

Alex Chalk, a justice minister, was forced to defend the government over allegations of "cronyism" from a Labour shadow minister on Politics Live.

Labour's Jo Stevens explained: "It raises another issue... the amount of cronyism has gone on in the awarding of contracts.

"We've seen in terms of people leading the vaccine task force, the head of Serco Test and Trace, all connected in some way to government friends, donors or friends of advisers. And if you're a member of the public looking at this wondering 'Does this look fair? Do the rules that apply to government apply to me as well?'

"We all have to go about business in an ethical and law-abiding way, and there's something that smells not quite right about this, and the amount of cronyism that is being exposed on top of contracts that have not delivered as they should have done and wasted taxpayers' money. At a time when a week ago we were being told school children in England could not be given free school meals at half-term".

Chalk was asked about allegations of cronyism in relation to Kate Bingham - chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce - and Dido Harding  - in charge of test and trace programme - both being married to Conservative politicians.

"I really regret there is so much politicsation of these issues. We've just heard political attack after political attack. Let's step back and work out what's been delivered. And what has been delivered... we have forty million vaccines. Those are vaccines ready to go to roll out if steps hadn't been taken.

MORE: Britain is descending fast into corrupt, cronyistic political culture

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"Of course when you are spending that money on PPE and you're doing it at pace, I am sure it will be possible to identify certain cases where maybe the kit didn't deliver as it should." But he insisted government had done "everything they properly can to try to get this kit".

But Stevens denied it was a case of "smearing individuals", pointing out that "Test and Trace has been a shambles for months and months".

MORE: Keir Starmer slams government over controversial coronavirus contracts

"And so this is about making sure the government gets things right, and to do that you need to have people leading that who can do the best job possible."

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