PAUL DRAYSON, the donor to the Labour Party who has done so well out of government contracts, has been lucky again. He admitted to a Commons committee last week that he won the contract to supply millions of doses of smallpox jabs even though his vaccines are no better than those of a rival.
Powderject Pharmaceuticals, headed by Drayson, was, with Bavarian Nordic of Denmark, given a £32m contract to supply emergency stocks of smallpox vaccines. However, Drayson, who gave £100,000 to Labour, told MPs last week that his vaccines were no more effective than a New York version developed by Acambis.
This rival firm was denied the chance to bid for the contract. The revelation came as it was claimed that ministers wasted £20 million of taxpayers' money by handing Drayson the contract. According to a written parliamentary answer, Bavarian Nordic subcontracts the work to a German drugs company, Impfstoffwerke Dessau-Tornau (IDT). The government would have saved taxpayers £20m by sourcing the vaccines direct from IDT.
A second, bigger smallpox contract has gone out to tender, but Powderject is the favourite to win it. Drayson's first donation to Labour came in 2001. He wrote a cheque for £50,000 after his company had been awarded a £17 million contract to supply TB inoculations to the NHS at a cost four times higher than the previous supplier.
In the Frame - No. 5 Lord Sainsbury
THIS billionaire gave New Labour £2.5 million last week. Sainsbury has given Labour £8.5 million since 1999.
Before that he gave millions to Roy Jenkins's breakaway Social Democratic Party. He was made a lord after he gave the Labour Party £2 million in 1997. He was made science minister in 1998 following another £1 million donation.
THE HYSTERIA in the US against anything French has had one good result - a financial crisis for the firm Sodexho. Sodexho is the multinational which made money from administering the refugee voucher scheme, running private prisons and catering contracts across the world.
Sodexho's shares slumped last week after members of the US House of Representatives put pressure on the defence department to cancel the firm's contract with the US Marine Corps. The contract is worth around $1 billion a year.
We pay £20m to MP pensions
AMID THE war news you may have missed that taxpayers will have to make an emergency £20 million contribution to MPs' pensions in the wake of the slide in share prices. Government ministers announced on 24 March that the Treasury will have to pay an extra £6.8 million to the MPs' pension fund for the next three years.
Camp X-Ray firm in NHS
A DIVISION of the services firm that runs Camp X-Ray, the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is to run the new NHS programme management office. Consultancy Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) has won the contract to oversee IT providers to the health service.
KBR is part of Halliburton, the oil services firm formerly run by US vice-president Dick Cheney.
Thanks to Jon Olley for this story.
Willing to back the killing?
ONLY CYNICS would claim that the much-vaunted 'coalition of the willing' in reality is just a handful of countries. We can now reassure you that mighty Solomon Islands has been drawn into line. However, it took a struggle. On 25 March the islands appeared on the White House website as one of the coalition.
But when the press asked Solomon Islands prime minister Allan Kemakeza about his country's appearance he said, 'The government is completely unaware of such statements being made, and therefore wishes to disassociate itself from the report.' His wisdom was not to last long.
The Solomon Islands are in the South Pacific, with a population of under 500,000. Its economy is in a mess and its government is very open to being pushed around by international bankers and powerful countries. By 28 March the Solomons' government had changed its mind.
US ambassador to the region Susan Jacobs announced, 'I've been in discussions with the prime minister and foreign minister, who have told me that they will be retracting their disavowal of support.'
Figure it out £1 million
The extra profit PER DAY made by Tony Blair's favourite oil company BP because of the rise in oil prices due to the build-up to war in Iraq.
Gordon grabs cash
LONDONERS may remember a series of posters before the congestion charge was introduced which asked, 'Where will the money go?' and in response said the money would go towards improvements such as 'more buses'. The real answer was 'to Gordon Brown'.
Recently announced government cuts in the London transport budget will wipe out the money raised from the charge. Transport for London said ministers had cut its budget for 2004-5 by £125 million and by £200 million in 2005-6.
This will almost exactly take away the £130 million a year raised from the charge. Transport for London now says there is a big funding gap between the better services it hoped to provide and the budget available.
London and other local authorities had been promised they could keep the charging revenue for the first ten years to pay for extra transport improvements. Instead of the congestion charge paying for more buses, it has gone to Gordon Brown by the back door.
This week's revelations come just as other cities are considerating introducing their own congestion charges.
'I'm sorry but the chick got in the way.'
US Marine who shot an Iraqi woman at a checkpoint
'We remain convinced that the Iraqi regime does possess weapons of mass destruction. We just don't have details that are factually based.'
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, director of operations at US Central Command
'It is hard to count Iraqi casualties because you are talking about the physical destruction of human beings.'
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks
'If you give an Iraqi something for free, he'll sell it on the street. I don't give a stuff if they are selling it.'
Major Paul Stanley, British soldier in charge of distributing water in Umm Qasr
'Saddam was the good guy then. Like other British and American companies we were encouraged to invest and were backed with government credit.'
Ivan McCabrey, head of Mivan, a Northern Irish company that built a palace with gold taps for Saddam Hussein
'When it comes to the Lebanon, the PLO, Sudan, Libya and Somalia we could deliver a short message, a two-word message: 'You're next'.'
Richard Perle, key adviser to George W Bush