Labour urges firms with Tory links to publish pandemic profits

Rachel Reeves in the House of Commons

Rachel Reeves in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament Live

Cronyism concerns have led to Labour urging companies with Conservative Party links to disclose their pandemic profits.

Research by the Opposition suggests the value of contracts awarded to firms with connections to the Tories amounts to almost £2 billion.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves is expected to reveal she has written to the top 10 firms with Tory connections that secured contracts during the Covid-19 crisis in a bid to unveil their profit levels.

She will also call for taxpayer money to be clawed back by the government if the contracts have failed to be delivered fully, and outline proposals to boost transparency for outsourcing and the tendering process.

Last November saw the National Audit Office (NAO), the public spending watchdog, publish a scathing report which criticised the way normal standards of transparency had been set aside.

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The NAO said firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices were given priority as the Government sought PPE for the NHS in the first phase of the pandemic.

Reeves, who will deliver a speech at Labour’s central London headquarters on Monday, accused the government of having “eroded” public services and “what it means to be an honourable and transparent” government.

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She said: “The beating heart of our country is the key workers who have kept us going through this last year. That’s why we applauded them.

“Children weren’t banging pots and pans for management consultants. They were clapping our key workers.

“The public is also paying a high price for this Government’s mismanagement and waste. This current Tory Party is rife with conflicts of interest. It’s all cheques and no balances.

“People expect all of us seeking government to spend their money with care and respect – and a Labour government will.

“Labour will clean up government contracting by strengthening FOI, introducing a new Independent Anti-Corruption Commissioner, and an Integrity and Ethics Commission to make us a world leader in good governance and transparency.”

A government spokesman said: “As the National Audit Office has made clear, there is no evidence of ministerial involvement in procurement decisions or contract management.

“We have robust rules and processes in place in order to ensure that conflicts of interest do not occur.

“Contracts are awarded on a combination of price and quality, not the political or other affiliations of owners or stakeholders.”

“During this unprecedented global pandemic, we have needed to procure contracts with extreme urgency to secure the vital supplies required to protect frontline NHS workers and the public. We make no apology for that.”

The Conservative Party accused the main opposition party of attempting to “score political points” with Reeves’ intervention.

“Throughout the pandemic British businesses have worked with our public services to help in the fight against coronavirus by delivering a wide variety of support, including PPE, hand sanitiser and ventilators,” a Tory spokeswoman said.

“Yet at every turn throughout the pandemic, Labour have tried to play politics and score political points.

“The Conservatives are getting on with the job, rolling out the vaccine and delivering on our commitments.”

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