Covid contracts: Priti Patel accused of lobbying for face mask firm

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Home Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of lobbying a fellow minister on behalf of a healthcare firm trying to get a government contract.

In May last year, Ms Patel wrote to Michael Gove expressing disappointment the government had not bought face masks from a company that had links to someone she knew.

Labour has called for an investigation, saying she breached ministerial rules.

But Ms Patel’s spokesman said she acted as she should have.

“The home secretary rightly followed up representations made to her about the vital supply of PPE,” the spokesman said.

“During a time of national crisis, failure to do so would have been a dereliction of duty.”

In recent weeks there have been a series of revelations about PPE deals awarded to those with government connections.

In May 2020, Ms Patel wrote a letter to Mr Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, about a company called Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd that was in talks with the government about an order for face masks.

She said the government’s “late stage” decision not to use the company had caused problems for the firm.

“I would be most grateful if you could review this matter urgently,” she wrote in the letter to Mr Gove.

The contact at Pharmaceuticals Direct Ltd was a man called Samir Jassal, a Conservative activist who Ms Patel knew. According to his LinkedIn, he worked as an adviser to Ms Patel between 2014 and 2015 and on social media describes her as a “good friend”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote back to Ms Patel to say the masks being offered by the firm were “not suitable for use in the NHS”.

But the company was later awarded a contract in July 2020, worth just under £103m, to supply a different type of mask.

The letters – which were first reported in the Daily Mail and now seen by the BBC – have come to light as part of a legal challenge by the Good Law Project.

Agencies

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