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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:41 pm on 21st June 2021.

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Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Labour, Gower 7:41 pm, 21st June 2021

The hon. Gentleman makes his point, and we might think to ourselves, yes, perhaps. However, it happens once, twice, then three times—it is not just the odd case. He talks about £4,000 not being a large sum of money compared with what he made. The Government have to be transparent and say, “Okay. We’ll take it on the chin. Let’s have an inquiry and look at it properly.” That is what the people who signed the petition want.

As predicted, we heard from the Minister a lot of excuses that we were expecting about the emergency. We know that it did not have to be that way, and I want to shine a light on it. According to the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University, the costs of PPE and Test and Trace in Wales were around half of that spent in England. We know why that is: the Welsh Labour Government did not divvy up contracts with their mates; they gave them to local authorities and those with public health expertise who were responsible for the test-and-trace system. What happened in Wales was transparent, and I am proud that a Welsh Labour Government delivered that. They did not have call handlers sitting around with nothing to do despite the contracts for them costing hundreds of millions of pounds.

A failing track-and-trace system, unusable PPE, and the millions spent on communications will undoubtedly come out in an inquiry. The SNP spokesperson, Deidre Brock uttered one of my favourite phrases that the Government use when they do not want us to find out the true scale of an issue: “the disproportionate cost”. What is disproportionate is spending huge amounts of money on equipment that cannot be used. What is also disproportionate are the deaths of 130,000 people who have left behind loved ones and who will never see the answers that they truly deserve.

My hon. Friend Kate Osborne raised an important question that the Minister should have addressed: how much money have the Government spent on defending themselves in court on the unlawful decisions that have been made? How much, Minister? It is important that we know. Transparency is important, and we have not seen it with this Government. Nurses are offered very little in pay rises, but entrepreneurs who have made a lot of money are seen as heroes. That is not right—it does not sit well with us—and many other people believe that, too.