Partygate isn’t the only scandal the PM is facing today

Nurses wearing PPE

The government has been accused of “negligence on an industrial scale” after it emerged it has spent in the region of half a billion pounds on useless personal protective equipment (PPE). It comes as a reminder that regardless of how Boris Johnson fares in the Sue Gray report, ‘partygate’ is far from his only ongoing scandal:


The Liberal Democrats warned against waste at a time when “pockets don’t run deep” after a parliamentary written question revealed that billions of PPE items in government stocks either cannot be used or are not currently needed. While you should always be wary of Liberal Democrats talking about ‘waste’ given their role in the disastrous austerity government, it’s unarguable that we shouldn’t be throwing money at personal ‘protective’ equipment that fails to protect. To make matters worse, this is all being revealed as the Tories prepare to raise national insurance on working people to improve the NHS’s financial situation:

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The question on waste, tabled by Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain, asked for the amount of PPE purchased by the government that has not been put to use because it is unwanted or unusable, along with its total cost.

Wendy Chamberlain
Lib Dem chief whip Wendy Chamberlain (Aaron Chown/PA)

In response, health minister Edward Argar said the PPE programme has ordered over 36.4 billion items since March 2020, of which 3.4 billion units are currently identified as “potential excess stock”, with a purchase price of roughly £2.2bn. In addition, a total of 6.96 billion items are not currently provided to frontline services.

Argar said:

This can be for a variety of reasons, including new stock that has not yet cleared assurance processes or where a different product is preferred.

Of these 6.96 billion items, the health minister said 1.2 billion – purchased for an estimated £458m – are “deemed to be not fit for use”. Quite what they are fit for or why we bought them is unclear. Perhaps we use them for comparison when buying stuff that works?

Chamberlain said:

This is extreme negligence on an industrial scale. The Government is burning a hole in the pocket of the taxpayer through its wastage of personal protective equipment, at a time when those pockets don’t run deep.

As people are noting in response to the government’s ongoing fiscal fiascos:

The government has blown around half a billion pounds on PPE that is unfit for use (Victoria Jones/PA)

Scandals galore

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said:

We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect our health and social care staff on the frontline, with over 17.5 billion PPE items delivered so far.

Where we have surplus stock of PPE, we have a range of measures we can take, including sales, donations, re-use and recycling or recovering costs from the supplier. In addition, we are working on plans to extend shelf life where appropriate.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice this gives no clue as to how we ended up with so much unusable PPE.

Among the other scandals trailing behind Johnson like toilet roll from a buffoon’s trousers is the ‘VIP lanes’ affair:

Some of these PPE contracts have infamously gone to Tory donors. And as Angela Rayner said earlier this month:

The Government’s VIP lane for PPE procurement wasn’t just dodgy, it was actually illegal. That was not my opinion, but the judgment of a High Court yesterday.

Another ongoing scandal revolves around the billions in pandemic fraud that the government chose to write off:

The Gray report might claim that Johnson had no clue that the string of parties he allegedly attended were parties. Others might argue he had no idea about the ‘industrial scale negligence’ his government oversaw. If either of those things are true, however, then why the hell is this literal no-nothing being allowed to run the country?

Additional reporting and featured image via PA

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