Monthly column: Britain deserves better than political corruption

Mohammad Yasin MP
Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston Pic credit: Chris McAndrew

Chaos, cronyism and corruption stories continue to engulf the Conservative Government as the lobbying scandal continues with new stories each day of MPs making vast sums of money from second jobs.

But the details emerging about the VIP-fast track system for Covid contracts is even more obscene.

After legal pressure from the Good Law Project, the Government has reluctantly released the names of 47 companies that won billions of pounds worth of COVID-related contracts via the VIP fast-track referral system.

Every single one of the companies, many of whom had no previous experience in manufacturing medical supplies, was politically linked to the Tory party.

The Government’s lame defence is that there was no time to procure equipment through the usual channels, but the evidence shows legitimate UK companies that specialised in the manufacture of PPE were bypassed for Tory donors and friends.

Evidence from one civil servant has shown the VIP lane severely hampered the procurement of PPE revealing that they were “currently drowning in VIP contracts that despite all of our work and best efforts do not either hold the correct certification or do not pass due diligence”.

Some of the contracts weren’t even honoured or the stuff they produced was defective and unusable. At the time, health and social care workers were dying for lack of PPE, care home managers and thousands on the frontline were trying desperately to procure their own PPE, making their own or relying on the kindness of local businesses and even schools to donate PPE including gloves, masks and visors.

But the priority for this Government in the worst public health crisis in a century was to line the pockets of their mates.

One company, the Uniserve Group, made £20 million from a contract. And in the last four months, the taxpayer has been paying them £1 million a day to store piles of their own unused PPE.

It’s a grotesque use of tax-payers money, which if it wasn’t for the work of the Good Law project, Open Democracy and some journalists including those at Private Eye, may never have come to light.

And we don’t yet know about the VIP lane for the £37bn of public money spent on Test and Trace contracts which by and large was an abject failure.

This flagrant disregard for due process, laws and rules by so many members of the current Government is bringing Parliament and this country into disrepute and eroding the belief that politics is a force for good.

I’m delighted that Labour leader, Keir Starmer is now taking the lead on cleaning up politics, calling for a ban on MPs holding second jobs except in exceptional circumstances like A&E shifts or from MPs holding paid directorships or business consultancies.

We also want to stop the revolving door between Government and the companies that ministers are supposed to regulate with a ban for five years after leaving office; to stop Tory plans for foreign money in British politics and create strict rules about donations from shell companies; to stop waste and corruption with taxpayer’s money with a new Office for Value for Money and reform of the public procurement system, and to strengthen the government standards system with a new independent integrity and ethics commission to defend and extend standards in government.

Britain deserves better than tolerating this political corruption. We need a government that governs in the public interest not bending the rules for its own gains.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford & Kempston.
It is published unedited and does not
reflect the views of
 the Bedford Independent.

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