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Will we discover who the Tories put in ‘VIP lane’?

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Issue 2768
Michael Gove made a contract with a Tory donor (Pic: Flickr/Number 10)

The government has been forced to say it will publish all the names of companies that received PPE contracts after being referred into a fast-track “VIP lane” by ministers.

But it has not set a date for the disclosures.

A National Audit Office report in November found that companies in the “VIP lane” were ten times more likely to be awarded a contract.

Among the companies so far revealed to have been awarded contracts through the VIP process are P14-Medical, run by the Conservative councillor and donor Steve Dechan. Another, Meller Designs is run by prominent Tory donor David Meller. Ayanda Capital was ­promoted by Andrew Mills, then an adviser to Liz Truss, the trade secretary.

New freedom of information ­disclosures by the Cabinet Office have now revealed that Meller Designs discussed the supply of personal protective equipment with Michael Gove’s office weeks before it received large pandemic contracts.

Since March the department has blocked the release of messages between Gove and Meller citing “commercial sensitivity”.

The company, which normally ­supplies beauty products to high street retailers, received £164 million of ­contracts for hand sanitiser, coveralls, respirators and masks supplied by Chinese manufacturers under contracts awarded without competition.

Meller helped run Gove’s 2016 Conservative leadership campaign, and has given £60,000 to the Conservative Party, as well as £5,000 to Gove personally.

  • Tory Sir Geoffrey Cox trousered more than £900,000 working as a ­barrister while the Covid pandemic ripped through Britain—and failed to speak in parliament once.

The former Attorney General has three second jobs as a barrister, including a lucrative role he began last September as “consultant global counsel” for Withers LLP with an annual salary of £468,000.

The MP for Torridge and West Devon last spoke in the Commons around 18 months ago.

After that date, Cox worked 466 hours for various legal firms, raking in a small fortune of around £904,000.

  • Fears over the economic future aren’t hitting everyone. Average pay for partners at accountant PwC jumped by more than a quarter last year to a record £868,000 after a deal-making boom boosted demand for its advisory services.

The Big Four firm also paid out an unprecedented £128 million in bonuses.

The pay rise came as PwC posted a 25 percent increase in profits, which hit £1.2 billion for the 12 months to June.

  • Priti Patel has appointed a former head of a hard‑right pressure group and former editor of a conservative blog to a “politically neutral”civil service job. Jonathan Isaby, previously chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which campaigns for lower government spending, is Patel’s new communications private secretary.

Dirty bankers take over polluting water company

Southern Water, fined a record £90 million last month for dumping billions of litres of raw sewage, has been taken over by a bank with a murky past.

Investment bank Macquarie has bought a majority stake in Southern Water for over £1 billion.

Macquarie sold its stake in Britain’s biggest water supplier, Thames Water, in 2017.

This followed a decade in which Macquarie earned billions from the company through dividends and paid next to no corporation tax.

Macquarie sold its final stake in Thames for an estimated £1.35 billion, just months before the Environment Agency prosecuted the utility company for extensive pollution in the Thames and other rivers between 2012 and 2014. At the time the £20 million fine was a record for this kind of offence.

Cameron made a fortune at Greensill

David Cameron made about £7 million from Greensill Capital before the finance company collapsed, documents obtained by BBC Panorama suggest.

The documents show the former Tory prime minister received more than £3 million after cashing in Greensill shares in 2019.

Greensill, which made its money by lending to businesses, went into administration in March.

Before its collapse, Cameron tried to persuade ministers to invest taxpayers’ money in Greensill loans.

Cameron sent 56 messages lobbying ministers and senior civil servants.

As well as the shares, Cameron received a salary of £720,000 a year as a part-time adviser.

The programme also said that the former prime minister was paid a bonus of £504,000 in 2019 on top of his salary.

How dare you say Met police is corrupt?

Met police commissioner Cressida Dick has responded to the Independent Panel report into the murder of Daniel Morgan in 1987.

In June, the report branded the Met “institutionally corrupt” and accused Dick of trying to thwart the inquiry.

Dick was specifically criticised for delays in handing evidence to the inquiry. Unsurprisingly, she has rejected the findings.

She said the idea “we keep things quiet to protect our reputation” was “bordering on offensive”.

Chair of the panel Baroness Nuala O’Loan said that public statements made by senior police officers following the panel’s report were “most disappointing”.

O’Loan said, “We have found the Met to be institutionally corrupt and the responses by senior officers to the report have been most disappointing.

Why the cops are corrupt to the core
Why the cops are corrupt to the core
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“The Metropolitan Police has placed concern for its reputation above the public interest.

“This is a betrayal of the Morgan family, and it’s also a betrayal of the public.”

She added that the police reactions “illustrate exactly the problem that we have been describing”.

Repeatedly in her response Dick states “The Met of today is not the Met of 34 years ago.”

In contrast, the Met was condemned in the report for its culture which “still exists that inhibits both organisational and individual accountability” in the report.

Dick said, “The Met does not accept the Panel’s findings that our actions during this case ‘constitutes a form of institutional corruption’”.

The best Dick has to offer on the very specific and detailed allegations in the report is, “We do acknowledge that occasionally this can lead to an overly defensive attitude.”

The things say…

‘It’s clear the Channel migrant crisis is not going away. How many are arriving and then disappearing? Perhaps we need to form a sort of ‘Home Guard’ to support the coastguard, police, Border Force etc’

Brendan Chilton, Labour council leader in Ashford, Kent

‘The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely’

US president Joe Biden last month

‘It feels really callous to say yes’

Keir Starmer supporter WesStreeting MP on the killing of alpaca Geronimo

‘No alternative. I don’t think we can make an exception in this case’

Keir Starmer lays down the line

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