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Firm owned by friend of Health Secretary awarded £14m PPE contract

AN ASSOCIATE of Health Secretary Matt Hancock owns a company that received a multimillion-pound government contract for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), it has emerged.

Frances Stanley is the sole “person of significant control” of CH&L Limited, a Companies House listing shows.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) awarded the £14.4 million contract for the provision of isolation gowns last April.

Ms Stanley told Byline Times that, due to “unforeseen logistical circumstances,” the contract was not fulfilled and the deposit paid by the DHSC was returned to the government.

She added: “At no point did I ever talk to Matt Hancock about our plans to help, only DHSC purchasing officials involved in the process.”

Her husband Peter Stanley had donated £5,000 to Mr Hancock’s office in 2019, Electoral Commission records show.

Mr Stanley and Dido Harding, appointed by the government to run the Covid-19 test-and-trace scheme, both hold board positions at the Jockey Club.

Ms Stanley is a director of Newmarket Racecourse, based in Mr Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency, and has direct ties to him.

The pair competed against each other in an amateur horse race for the Newmarket Town Plate in 2016. In 2019, they were pictured at a rail summit held at Newmarket Jockey Club and organised by Ms Stanley.

Four months later, in January 2020, CH&L Limited was incorporated with one director, Chunlei Li, a member of the Newmarket Chinese Medicine Centre. In June, Ms Stanley was appointed a director.

The contract was only published by the government this week.

Commenting on the contract, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said that the government is “now just frankly taking the p*** out of British people.”

The revelation comes after Labour challenged the government this week to “clean up” how it awards contracts during the pandemic.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said that procurement during the crisis had been “rife with conflicts of interest” and “cronyism.”

She called for a new ethics watchdog to “guarantee standards.”

Last November, a National Audit Office report found that more than half of contracts by the end of July 2020 had been awarded without competitive tender.

It said that companies recommended by MPs, peers and ministers’ offices had been given priority.

But the report concluded that, in cases of potential conflicts of interest involving ministers, all had declared their interests and there was “no evidence of their involvement in procurement decisions or contract management.”

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