Government Contracts: Covid-19 — [Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:11 pm on 21st June 2021.

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Photo of Julia Lopez Julia Lopez Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office), The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office 7:11 pm, 21st June 2021

It is interesting to know that. The hon. Member for Gower mentioned the company Arco, and I appreciate her for raising that. It was raised by the MP for Arco’s constituency, Emma Hardy, in a Westminster Hall debate to which I referred earlier. If the hon. Member for Gower and I swapped seats, I wonder whether I would be suggesting that it was improper to put that forward. People were in very difficult circumstances; if she had been told that there was a company that could support the national effort, would she not have put it forward for review? We have to ask ourselves that question.

The focus on those early procurement challenges secured some tremendous successes under pressure. We have established one of the largest and most diversified vaccine portfolios in the world. We have ordered 32 billion items of PPE and provided more than 15,000 ventilators to the NHS. It is important that we do not obscure those achievements with some of the understandable concerns that have been raised about transparency. None of us wants to sit here answering questions about cronyism. The challenges I cited about the recording-keeping across Departments are real ones that we are trying very hard to address. I understand why people ask questions; I have asked many of them myself, and I have been reassured by the answers that I have received from officials.