Matt Hancock and Priti Patel have been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for their roles in awarding PPE contracts.
The prime minister’s longstanding advisor Munira Mirza has also been referred to the SFO along with the home secretary and former health secretary by the Good Law Project
They claim to “have uncovered evidence that go-betweens who had little apparent to offer apart from their political connections were paid vast sums of money to deliver contracts” and that this “points powerfully to the system being corrupt.”
Jo Maugham, the director of the GLP said he will place before the SFO the materials the GLP have gathered, and added: “If, which is open to real doubt, we do still have an independent criminal justice system I believe they [the SFO] should investigate.”
Hancock used private email for PPE, care homes and £37 bn test and trace
Hancock is facing a separate investigation for using his personal email address to conduct government business and PPE contracts, in breach of government guidelines. The Sunday Times reports the former health secretary – who quit the Cabinet yesterday (June 26) following revelations about his affair with aide Gina Coladangelo – “has routinely used a private [email] account to conduct government business, concealing information from his own officials and potentially the public,” according to documents they have obtained.
Among much else, it means the government does not hold the emails relating to the setting up of the £37 billion test and trace service, or those relating to the care homes strategy, or for multimillion pound PPE contracts.
Before news of Hancock’s resignation broke, Sky News reported on Saturday that Coladangelo’s brother is the strategy director of a company that has won several NHS contracts. Roberto Coladangelo previously worked as a marketing executive in the sports and gaming industries and Sky report “there was no suggestion on Friday” of any improper procurement of contracts “while a DHSC source insisted that the Secretary of State had no involvement in awarding NHS contracts.”
Test and Trace lose 86% of tests
Meanwhile the National Audit Office (NAO) have published a damning report on England’s £37 billion Test and Trace service which was found to have lost nearly 600 million Covid tests – representing 86% of the 691 million tests distributed in England.
Not only were there serious failings in tracing and contacting infected people, the service was also criticised for paying for tracing staff it did not use and for using emergency procurement powers that permit contracts to be awarded without tender or competition.
The NAO report is critical too of Hancock’s decision to merge Test and Trace into a new Health Security Agency stating there was “a risk that the restructuring will divert NHS TandT’s attention away from efforts to contain the spread of the virus”.
On top of these issues for Hancock, the Times states that there are “fresh demands” for the Metropolitan Police “to launch investigation into whether he broke the law by kissing and fondling his adviser while the public were banned from hugging their loved ones.”
Revelations of the affair forced Hancock to step down and Conservative Home report the “presumption” is that the resignation was Johnson’s decision after initially trying to ride out the media storm. However, ”rising public anger” and the Batley and Spen by-election on Thursday are among the “further factors” forcing Hancock out, although the Tory website also speculates “that Hancock himself [may] simply [have] had enough – and that this one-time leadership contender had come to see that his position was beyond rescue.”
Pressure has been piling on Hancock throughout the course of the pandemic and shadow justice secretary, David Lammy tweeted: “Matt Hancock shouldn’t have resigned. @BorisJohnson should have fired him many months ago for breaking the law, handing out contracts to his mates, failing to prevent tens of thousands of preventable deaths and being in the PM’s words ‘f******* useless’.”
‘Live cat’ Sajid Javid back as health secretary
Hancock is being replaced by Sajid Javid and ConservativeHome call the appointment a “big bang” move with Paul Goodman saying Javid’s big name acts as a “live cat” distraction that avoids a big reshuffle and “also represents a further closing of the waters over the era of Dominic Cummings.”
In Javid’s immediate in-tray, on top of the pandemic, are the long standing problems faced by the NHS, not least a 5 million-plus waiting list for operations and reforming the scandalous social care system. Also imminent is a new mental health bill as well as the small matter of a complete health service reorganisation.
Javid was born in Rochdale and – like London mayor Sadiq Khan – he is the son of a bus driver from Pakistan, who paid for the future chancellor’s O-Level maths after his school declined to. The careers advisor told Javid he would make a good TV repair man. The new health secretary met his wife Laura while working a summer job at Commercial Union, where, Javid told the Daily Mail, they sat opposite each other and shared a stapler. Aged 25 he became Chase Manhattan bank’s youngest ever vice president and was earning £3 million per annum at Deutsche Bank before running for parliament.
The now 50-year-old former chancellor and home secretary has represented Bromsgrove since 2010 and became the first Muslim MP to reach the cabinet – being appointed culture secretary in 2015, when he was hailed as “one of the Tories brightest stars”.
Javid was appointed chancellor by Johnson but he held the job for just six months before falling out with Cummings over advisors. He quit just weeks before what would have been his first budget in February 2020, and was replaced by Rishi Sunak in Number 11.
Thatcher told Javid: ‘You will protect our great island!’
Javid claims he was in his late-20s when he was all-but anointed by Margaret Thatcher who he met at a Conservative party fundraiser. “I was standing in a group of five or six when she was brought over and introduced to us all. And, no kidding, she just ignored everyone and looked at me and held my hand in both hers, and stared me in the face,” Javid recalled.
“And then she said, ‘Sajid!’ and I said, ‘Yes’, and she said, ‘Sajid, you will protect our great island. You will protect our great island!’ And I said, ‘Yes I will.’ And then she let go of my hand and walked off.”
Labour MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana tweeted: “Alongside being an MP, last year Javid was hired as a paid senior advisor to the US bank JP Morgan. JP Morgan is a major player in private healthcare. The NHS isn’t safe in the Conservatives’ hands.”