Socialist Worker

Face masks that didn’t fit, the tax haven, and who profited

Issue No. 2717

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Public money is going to waste on dangerous kit (Pic: nursetogether.com/Wikipedia)


Fifty million face masks purchased by the government from a private equity investment company can’t be used by the NHS because they failed to meet basic safety requirements.

They had ear straps rather than head straps and may not provide an “adequate fixing” around the face. 

This scandal emerged from documents filed as part of a legal challenge over Britain’s procurement of PPE during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Health and Social Care bought the FFP2 respirator masks as part of a £252 million contract with Ayanda Capital. 

The firm advertises that it specialises in “currency trading, offshore property, private equity and trade financing”.

It is owned by the Horlick family via Milo Investments, a holding company registered in the tax haven of Mauritius.

Andrew Mills is a special adviser to trade minister Liz Truss. 

He also sits on the board of Ayanda Capital.

The contract was the largest single deal published by the government as part of its PPE purchasing.

The Good Law Project says it represents wasted spending of at least £156 million.

As well as the 50 million failed FFP2 respirator masks, there are 150 million Type IIR masks purchased from Ayanda Capital.

The government has admitted that they also require further testing and have not been released for use in the NHS.

There is another remarkable feature of the Ayanda contract. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock’s lawyers have now admitted they planned to enter into that contract with a £100 company wholly owned by Liz Truss’ adviser Andrew Mills and his wife. 

Mills asked—and the government agreed—to enter into it with Ayanda instead. 

This was because the £100 company—Prospermill Limited—didn’t have “international payment infrastructure.” 

The Good Law project asked, “Just how much has this arrangement prospered Mills?”


The BBC has taken on an extra 800 licence fee agents as they expect a revolt over the removal of free licences for over-75s. 

Pensioners’ campaigners are urging resistance and had called on all over-60s to cancel their TV licence direct debits in solidarity with over-75s and instead offer to pay with monthly, backdated cheques.


A strike by African and Asian workers could be coming at the US Bagram Airfield base in Afghanistan. 

Workers who recently demonstrated on the base say the Fluor contracting company pays them less than others for the same work because they’re from countries such as India, Kenya, Nepal and Uganda.

Who would have thought the US occupation acts in a racist way?


School says take blood test, get back to work

A self-isolating school worker in Birmingham was horrified when academy bosses turned up at her home and bullied her into taking a Covid-19 blood test. 

The terrified teaching assistant, who had already requested a test from the NHS, let them take her blood. 

Management then refused to show her the results. But they insisted they were negative and ordered her to return to work next day. 

Loretta Barratt, the headteacher who ordered management to the worker’s home, then held an all-staff meeting.

At this gathering she publicly breached the privacy of the worker by naming them and recounting the events of the test.

Dorrington Academy, where the woman worked, has failed to provide the medical training records of those who drew the blood.

The academy “has put the health of pupils, their families and staff at risk,” said the GMB union. 


Ex-Labour minister has the Pope as boss  

Former Labour minister Ruth Kelly was appointed to a top finance job at the Vatican last week.  

She should be ideal. In 2007, as Labour’s communities secretary, she told council leaders and police chiefs that she wanted them to target Muslim “hotspots”. 

These were schools, mosques and colleges which were supposedly centres of extremism.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) wrote to Kelly to complain that there had been a “drip-feed of ministerial statements stigmatising an entire community”.

Kelly replied with an open letter to the MCB suggesting they were “passive in tackling extremism and yet expect government support”.

Kelly, a member of Opus Dei, opposed an equal age of consent for gay men. In 2010 she became the Global Head of Client Strategy at HSBC bank.


Dividend after state handout

John Homer, chief executive of construction firm NMCN, has defended the company’s plan to pay a dividend to shareholders next month after the company made use of government support.

In its results for the six months to 30 June released last week, the company said it would pay an interim dividend, totalling £1 million, next month. 

Construction News reported that Homer said returning cash to shareholders at this point was the right move. 

He said, “You have to take a balanced view, and the balanced view was in regards to 2019, trading was what it was. We’ve got the cash and it’s right to pay the shareholders. That’s the reason they’re invested in the company.”

NMCN, like most firms, has taken cash from the government as part of the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme. It has not disclosed the level of support it has taken.

Homer insisted cash from the furlough scheme was not being used to support the dividend payment. 

“I emphasise, it is the 2019 profit that we’re playing against, not the 2020 trading,” he said.


Race gap in firm closures 

Back in April, economists calculated that the Covid-19 economic downturn had knocked out around 22 percent of small US businesses.

That is startling. What is doubly striking is the racial skew. 

Last week the New York Federal Reserve released a study that suggested that the closure rate for white-run businesses was 17 percent. 

The rate for black-run businesses, however, was 41 percent. 

Black-run businesses have been knocked out at twice the rate of white businesses during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests.


The things they say

‘You did a bloody shit job’

Pensioner Joan Drew Smith delivers her verdict on the bingo calling by royals William and Kate 

‘I am encouraging government to consider additional powers and stronger deterrence’ 

Dave Thompson, head of West Midlands Police, wants to hit street parties

‘They are dying. That’s true. It is what it is’

President Donald Trump’s reaction after it was pointed out 1,000 people were dying a day in the US from coronavirus

‘Just had new veggie Percy Pigs. Delicious’

Labour MP Wes Streeting in 2011. The sweet’s packaging has now been denounced as ‘wilfully misleading’

‘Alterations, repairs and replacement of soft furnishings need to be in keeping with the historic nature of the building’

Spokesperson for Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle after it was revealed that spending to refurbish his official home included in excess of £7,500 on mattresses and bedding   


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