A list of the 47 companies referred to the government’s VIP fast-track lane for contracts to supply PPE has been revealed. These are five of the significant political figures whose referrals ended up with the companies winning contracts.
According to a leaked document, Gove referred two firms that were listed in the so-called VIP lane during the pandemic. One was co-owned by a businessman, David Meller, who donated £3,250 to support Gove’s unsuccessful bid to become Conservative party leader in 2016. The company, Meller Designs, normally manufactured fashion and beauty products.
When Gove was education secretary, he appointed Meller to be a non-executive board member of the education department in 2013. Meller has been involved in running schools. A source close to Gove said his office merely passed on the offer from Meller Designs to supply PPE and he and other ministers were not involved in decisions about which companies should get contracts.
Gove’s office also referred a little-known Chinese firm, Liaoning Zhongqiao Overseas Exchange Co Ltd, which received a $15m contract for PPE.
A spokesperson Meller Designs said it was “extremely proud” of the role it played in supplying “more than 100million items of PPE”. A spokesperson for Gove denied that that the referral had involved any impropriety, saying he passed on offers to supply PPE.
The former health secretary made four referrals of companies that were fast-tracked and successfully won contracts. He has said he considered them credible offers. One of them was Excalibur Healthcare, which won £135.4m in contracts. He also referred Nine United, which won a £80.7m contract, and Monarch Acoustics, which won a £28.8m contract. He made a fourth referral of JD.com, China’s biggest retailer, chaired by the billionaire Richard Liu. This related to a free donation of PPE rather than a contract.
Hancock was approached for comment.
The Tory peer and former chair of the party was drafted in by the Department of Health to consider offers of PPE supplies. He made three referrals that ended up in the fast-track: SG Recruitment, which won a £79.6m of contracts, Skinnydip Ltd, which won a £12.8m contract, and Maxima Markets, which won a £1.85m contract. He said he had no previous knowledge of the companies or commercial relationship with their owners, and his unpaid job was to pass credible offers on to officials. The companies were referred to him by third parties, and he had no knowledge they had ended up in the fast-track lane, Lord Feldman added.
Three firms were referred by Agnew, a relatively low-profile minister who holds posts in both the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. One was Uniserve, a British logistics company that was one of the largest recipients of pandemic deals handed out by the Department of Health and Social Care without an open tender. It received eight contracts valued at £876m. The others were Worldlink Resource, which received two contracts totalling £258m, and Euthenia Investments, which was given a contract worth £880,000. Agnew was first revealed to have made referrals in a legal challenge brought by the Good Law Project in April. The Cabinet Office said Agnew had been referring companies that approached his office. Uniserve said the Department of Health and Social Care had approached it directly and that it had no connections with Agnew.
The Conservative peer and lingerie businesswoman is listed as being the source of a referral of a company called PPE Medpro, which was awarded two contracts worth £202.8m.
Mone last year denied to the Guardian via her lawyers that she had “any role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process by which contracts were awarded to PPE Medpro”. A lawyer for Mone has confirmed that she stands by that statement.