Labour has demanded that firms with Conservative links awarded government contracts worth almost £2bn during the coronavirus pandemic disclose their profits.
Calling on ministers to “clean up” the Covid procurement procedures, shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said the British public was “paying a high price for this government’s mismanagement and waste”.
In a speech on Monday, she will point to research from the Labour Party suggesting the total value of contracts awarded to companies with links to Tories amounts to £1.9bn.
Ms Reeves will reveal she has written to 10 companies that have secured government contracts since the onset of the pandemic requesting they make public their profit levels.
She will also urge that the government “claws back” money from firms that have failed to deliver fully, and outline proposals to boost transparency, outsourcing and the tendering process.
During her speech at Labour’s headquarters in central London, Ms Reeves will say: “This government has eroded not only our public services to the brink of collapse, but so much of what it means to be an honourable and transparent government.
“While this Tory government has denied key workers in our public sectors a pay rise, they paid 900 management consultants at Deloitte £1,000 a day to work on test and trace.”
She will add: “The public is also paying a high price for this government mismanagement and waste. The current Tory party is rife with conflicts of interest. It’s all cheques and no balances.
“People expect all of us seeking government to spend their money with care and respect – and a Labour government will.
“Labour will clean up government contracting by strengthening FOI [Freedom of Information], introducing a new independent anti-corruption commissioner, and an integrity and ethics commission to make us a world leader in good governance and transparency.”
Last year, the National Audit Office (NAO) published a damning report on the contracts handed out under emergency rules as the government sought personal protective equipment for frontline health workers in the NHS during the initial phase of the crisis. It suggested some companies were fast-tracked for potential Covid contracts after tips from ministers and MPs.
In response to Ms Reeves’ comments, a Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Throughout the pandemic British businesses have worked with our public services to help in the fight against coronavirus by delivering a wide variety of support, including PPE, hand sanitiser and ventilators.
“Yet at every turn throughout the pandemic, Labour have tried to play politics and score political points. The Conservatives are getting on with the job, rolling out the vaccine and delivering on our commitments.”
A government spokesperson added that the NAO report “made clear there is no evidence of minister involvement in procurement decisions or contract management”.
They added: “We have robust rules and processes in place in order to ensure that conflicts of interest do not occur. Contracts are awarded on a combination of price and quality, not the political or other affiliations of owners or stakeholders.
“During this unprecedented global pandemic, we have needed to procure contracts with extreme urgency to secure the vital supplies required to protect frontline NHS workers and the public. We make no apology for that.
“We have strict protocols in place for spending public money to ensure we get critical equipment to where it needs to go as quickly as possible, whilst also ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.”