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BILLIONS more in public cash could be heading into private pockets to pay for the hoped-for coronavirus vaccine, Labour warned today.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that the government should not squander any more taxpayers’ money after it paid private firms for useless personal protection equipment (PPE) and to run its failed test-and-trace system.
Mr Ashworth called for the appointment of a “dedicated minister for the vaccine” to oversee its distribution.
His alluded to the government’s refusal to let the NHS and local authorities run what Boris Johnson promised would be a “world-beating” test-and-trace system.
Instead, ministers opted to employ profiteering firms, including disgraced Serco, to administer the scheme.
Mr Ashworth said that the government must avoid the “botched outsourcing of the £12 billion test-and-trace system and the £18bn ‘contract cronyism’ fiasco which saw Tory-linked companies handed millions of pounds for unusable PPE.”
He argued that the appointment of a minister for the vaccine would provide accountability and avoid a repetition of the government’s “mistakes.”
Mr Ashworth said: “After months of sacrifice, people are looking forward with hope to a vaccine that will save lives and provide a route out of lockdown restrictions.
“But after the ministerial mistakes over the procurement of PPE and the £12bn for the failing test-and-trace system, nobody wants yet more avoidable mishaps.
“The necessary plans need to be in place now.”
Public ownership campaign group We Own It agreed that there should be “no repetition of the disastrous model the government has adopted with regards to the test-and-trace system or to PPE procurement.”
Campaigns officer Pascale Robinson said: “The government’s bungled handling of the coronavirus pandemic has put countless people’s lives needlessly at risk.
“Rather than investing in a publicly led response, the government chose to funnel billions of pounds into the hands of private companies, many of which they had personal connections to.
“The government must put people’s lives before private profit and ensure that any vaccination programme is led by the NHS, public health teams and primary care services.”
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