Ex-minister Liam Fox gets donation from Covid
Mr Fox recommended SureScreen Diagnostics to Mr Hancock in 2020, an email seen by campaign group Good Law Project and the BBC shows.
The company went on to win a £500m contract to provide tests without facing competition.
A spokesperson for Mr Fox said the story was a “baseless smear”.
It was “concocted by the political activist Jolyon Maugham and the Good Law Project”, the spokesman said, and Mr Fox would be making a complaint.
“It is appalling that this should be propagated by the BBC,” the statement issued after publication, added.
SureScreen said it had never paid for any government lobbying activity.
A director of the Derbyshire-based firm emailed Mr Fox in June 2020 to say that they were sending millions of antibody tests for use in hospitals in Germany, Spain and Sweden.
They said it was “crazy” that the tests could not be used in the UK, because they had not been approved by Public Health England.
At the time, before lateral flow tests — which detect current infection — became routinely available for use at home, some argued antibody tests were a way of allowing people who could prove they had previously had the virus to come out of lockdown.
Mr Fox immediately forwarded SureScreen’s email to Mr Hancock, telling the then health secretary: “I don’t think the British people would understand or approve of the widespread export of this capability when we will have a huge need at home.”
This email was obtained by the Good Law Project through a Freedom of Information request.
It is not clear what resulted from Mr Fox’s intervention over the antibody tests.
But seven months later the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) directly awarded SureScreen a contract worth £500m to supply a different type of antigen test, which shows current infection.
The government said they were the first British tests to be validated in the laboratory by Public Health England.
According to its parent company’s most recent set of accounts, SureScreen Diagnostics posted profits before tax of £67.2m for the year ending May 2021.
That is 75 times higher than the figure for the previous year.
The Good Law Project, which has sued the government over its use of emergency powers to make deals with firms without opening them to competition, said the donation raised questions.
“How many times do corporates need to give money to Tory MPs after getting help winning vast public contracts before concluding we have a cash for contracts problem,” the Project’s executive director Jolyon Maugham said.
“We know perfectly well what we’d call conduct like this if we saw it happening in another country.”
SureScreen said it was not aware that Mr Fox had been in touch with Mr Hancock in 2020 until this was pointed out to them by the BBC.
News Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-62766148