Questions about Tory wastage and cronyism persist, following exposure of massive PPE dump

A pile of £50 notes representing potential Conservative cronyism over PPE contracts
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Earlier this month photographs published on Twitter revealed a massive dump of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in Hampshire. This raises questions about who in the Conservative government or in industry – or both – was behind this wasted PPE that would have cost taxpayers millions.

The dump is also a stark reminder of the numerous PPE contracts awarded to alleged unsuitable firms. Many of those firms, as we will see, had business links with the Conservative Party or the UK government.

Disappeared PPE

The PPE dump was discovered at Little Testwood Farm, Calmore. The PPE consisted of what appeared to be medical gowns and possible face masks, still in their packs. Hampshire County Council (HCC) are inquiring with the Environment Agency, as they suspect the items may have been dumped because they were defective.

HCC has initiated enforcement activity with the New Forest District Council, the Environment Agency, and the police. According to a local newspaper, the PPE is on land licenced to an adjoining caravan park.

This tweet includes a photo of the PPE dump – the caravans behind give an idea of the massive size of the dump:

Disappeared PPE profits

In another vanishing act, it’s alleged that at least £65m in profits from PPE contracts found its way to the family of Tory baroness Mone. The contracts were awarded to PPE Medpro, following her recommendation of the firm to government ministers. The contracts to supply gowns and face masks were worth in excess of £200m.

In May 2020, Mone contacted lord Agnew, the Cabinet minister who was responsible for PPE procurement, by private email. She told him that Michael Gove, another Cabinet minister, suggested she contacted him “urgently”. She further told Agnew that her “team in Hong Kong” could organise the PPE supply. Her emails can be seen here.

In September 2020, it was further revealed that, on being awarded the PPE contract, PPE Medpro had only been in existence for just over a month.

The government claims it’s suing PPE Medpro as the gowns “did not comply with the specification in the contract”.

There’s more PPE wastage

Earlier this year, the Independent reported that the government paid Clipper Logistics £11m for PPE provision. Subsequently, Clipper was paid a further £4.5m to burn the PPE gloves, goggles, and gowns it procured as they were “ineffective”. Steve Parkin, who founded Clipper, donated £730,000 to the Conservative Party.

Labour minister Angela Rayner commented:

The Tories’ conveyor belt of sleaze and incompetence has come full circle. They handed millions to a donor’s firm with no experience of delivering PPE, then forked out millions more for the exact same firm to incinerate it.

Taxpayers’ cash is going up in flames as the government’s bonfire of useless PPE grows. Ministers must come clean about these grubby deals and explain how a Tory donor’s company came to be awarded millions on millions for this fiasco.

Even more wastage

But the wastage does not end there. The government has admitted it spent:

  • £673m on PPE “not suitable for any use”
  • £2.5bn on PPE “not suitable for use in the NHS”
  • £4.7bn paying inflated pandemic prices for PPE we didn’t need to buy

In another case, a £70m contract with Saiger LLC to supply over 10 million surgical gowns resulted in the items being withheld. Their use was suspended because of concerns about the way they were packaged. According to the BBC, the “contract had not requested double packaging, as used in sterile settings”.

In June 2022, the Public Accounts Committee stated that PPE worth £4bn was unusable because it did not meet NHS standards.

In 2020, it was reported that 400,000 medical gowns from Turkey had been impounded because of poor standards.


There are also allegations of cronyism.

In July 2020, the Canary reported on firms awarded PPE contracts. They included a recruitment agency, a sweets manufacturer, and a business specialising in pest control products.

One such firm was Ayanda Capital, which specialised in “currency trading, offshore property, and private equity and trade financing”. It was awarded a contract worth £252m to supply face masks. Ayanda senior board adviser Andrew Mills was an adviser to the government’s board of trade.

In September 2020, the Canary published names of more firms awarded PPE contracts. Many had no history of manufacturing or supplying PPE; some were listed as dormant.

One firm, Globus (Shetland), was awarded a £93m contract to supply respiratory face masks. It donated more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party. Other firms, such as Public First, Faculty AI, and Topham Guerin, also had business links with the Conservative Party or the UK government.

It took another year before the Conservative government got around to publishing the names of the firms to which it awarded PPE contracts. Some were included in a high-priority lane, while others either offered PPE made in the UK or sourced from China. Another category listed companies that were awarded contracts but had no history of PPE supply or manufacture.

In June 2023, it was reported that PPE contracts that were yet to be published amounted to an eye-watering £7bn.

Fast-tracking of PPE contracts

With regard to the high-priority lane, in November 2021 the Good Law Project reported £1.6bn worth of contracts resulting from referrals.

MPs who were either referral sources or actual referrals included: Matt Hancock, the Office of the Duchy of Lancaster (then headed by Michael Gove), Gavin Williamson, Grant Shapps, Julian Lewis, Steve Brine, Andrew Percy, and Esther McVey.

The following peers were also named as either referral sources or actual referrals: baroness Mone, lord Agnew, lord Leigh, lord Chadlington, lord Deighton, and lord Feldman.

The Guardian reported that Hancock allegedly recommended a firm run by his former neighbour and pub landlord Alex Bourne. The firm was subsequently subcontracted to provide test tubes in a deal worth £40m. However, questions were raised about the reliability of the product and it’s alleged many test tubes were burned.

Warnings unheeded

There were warnings.

In October 2021, the Canary reported on how the Tory government was warned about PPE shortages years before the pandemic. It failed to act and was later accused of covering up the recommendations resulting from a contingency planning exercise.

Indeed, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Inquiry, currently underway, will examine “resilience and preparedness”. It will also look at procurement problems, which will presumably include wastage and alleged cronyism.

The bereaved families of those who died directly or indirectly from the pandemic deserve to know the full truth of what took place.

Featured image via Flickr / Images Money cropped 770×403 pixels

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