Jacob Rees-Mogg likens awarding billions in unscrutinised PPE contracts to 'calling plumber out at 2am'

Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons

Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliamentlive.tv

Jacob Rees-Mogg has compared the awarding of billions of pounds worth of Covid-19 contracts without proper process to "calling a plumber out at 2am".

Rees-Mogg attempted to dismiss calls for a debate on a National Audit Office report into government spending on coronavirus contracts.

A report published by the independent parliamentary body found up to £10 billion worth of medical equipment contracts had been handed out to businesses without due process.

It also revealed many of these were submitted via a "high-priority" channel that saw contracts by companies with connections to the Conservative Party ten times more likely to be approved.

The report has stated that MPs were not involved in the decision-making process.

Requesting a motion debate, Richard Thomson, an SNP, asked: "The leader of the House would be aware of a report by the National Audit Office on procurement during the pandemic which, while acknowledging the exceptional circumstances which did apply, nonetheless identified many problems with the processes undertaken and also highlighted the need to maintain public trust in the process.

"Will the leader make time in early course to allow for a full debate in this chamber on that report and its contents?"

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Rees-Mogg replied: "There has been an extraordinary success in procurement that had to be done very quickly and everyone wanted it done very quickly."

Highlighting that 80% of contracts worth more than £120,000 had already been published in the public domain, the Tory MP added: "Everyone knows that if you have a leak at 2am and call a plumber out, it costs more than if you book him to come in three months' time. We were in the situation of having a leak at 2am. It was inevitably expensive."

Twitter users were quick to ridicule the MP.

Robert Saunders quipped: "Fair point. I often pay millions of pounds to plumbers with no prior experience of plumbing, especially if they are related to me or have worked on my political campaigns. And I still pay them when they supply pipes that don't fit."

Slough For Europe's Twitter account posted: "Hands up anyone who's decided in the middle of the night that instead of calling a plumber to fix a leak you'll call a newly formed company with zero experience of plumbing based in a distant tax haven and pay them way over the normal cost..."

Institute for Government programme director Nick Davies added: "In this analogy, Jacob Rees-Mogg set up a special phone line for his friends to pitch plumbing ideas, agreed with the first quotes offered, continued paying emergency rates months after experienced plumbers became available again, and then scolded his wife for questioning him."

Thom Brooks, a professor of law at Durham University, pointed out a problem with Rees-Mogg's analogy: "You'd phone a plumber, not a mate who is untrained but happy to try a hand at fixing your leak at high rates and no competition."

Arthur Snell quipped: "Surely the learning point here is to set up a plumbing business in JRM's neighbourhood."

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