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Campaigners call for end of outsourcing to stop ‘dodgy deals’ during pandemic

CAMPAIGN group We Own It has demanded an end to outsourcing to stop the dodgy deals being struck between ministers and their close friends and party donors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The call came after the Sunday Times published a “chumocracy” analysis of outsourced contracts and jobs handed out during the pandemic showing the close ties between government and those who benefit.

The paper’s report concluded that usual transparency rules have been cast aside by ministers during the pandemic with some lobbyists having privileged access to information – which has then been shared with clients – and £1.5 billion worth of contracts awarded to companies linked to the Tories.

None of the firms awarded contracts were prominent government suppliers before this year.

The exposé comes after Labour MPs Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett and former MP Laura Smith called in their No Holding Back report for a cronyism watchdog comprised of ordinary people to counter the rampant corruption of the current government.

Pascale Robinson, campaigns officer at We Own It, told the Morning Star: “While the country is facing the greatest public-health crisis we’ve seen in a century, the government’s response has been to engage in dodgy deals with their mates in the private sector.

“It seems all you need to receive a government coronavirus contract is a friend who’s a government minister. 

“The tragedy of this is that time and again we’ve seen these private companies fail to deliver, whether it’s in contact-tracing, testing, or delivering protective equipment. 

“That failure has put countless lives at risk and meant we’ve totally failed to get a grip on this virus. 

“It’s time to move beyond this jobs-for-the-boys system, to stop lining the pockets of the Tories’ friends in business and to end the scandal of outsourcing once and for all.”

Among the Sunday Times’ chumocracy list is venture capitalist Kate Bingham, who was appointed head of the vaccines taskforce by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. She is married to Tory minister Jesse Norman and is a family friend of Mr Johnson.

Another is Baroness Harding, who was appointed head of NHS Test and Trace. She was given a peerage by former PM David Cameron, and is married Tory MP John Penrose.

And hereditary peer and health minister Lord Bethell gave money to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s failed leadership campaign in 2019. Mr Hancock made the long-time lobbyist his testing minister. Lord Bethell is also a friend of Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds. 

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has written to Cabinet Secretary Simon Caseby to demand an inquiry into the reports that lobbyists have been secretly serving as advisers to government ministers and departments and passing information on to their clients before this information was known to the public. 

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