Former health minister defends pandemic VIP PPE procurement 2023


A Conservative former health minister defended the VIP lane for coronavirus-related contracts that allowed politically-connected corporations to make big profits.

Lord Bethell blamed “longstanding” inequities for the NHS’s pandemic unpreparedness.

At the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, former prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne denied that their austerity policies exposed the UK to the epidemic.

Doctors and unions say that 2010–2016 public service cuts eroded health and social care capability.

Lord Bethell, who was health minister during the epidemic, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “We didn’t have enough of that capacity, but we haven’t had for a very long time.

“The British way has been to muddle through on health, with the slimmest, lowest-cost health system we can have with a lot of rationing and a very, very low-cost public health and social care system.

Inequalities in this nation predate the Tories.

Presenter Mishal Husain questioned the Tory peer about the VIP lane’s preferential treatment of MP- and peer-referred PPE suppliers.

The government has been accused of favoritism and neglecting to do due diligence when awarding contracts, which allowed certain businesses to earn huge profits while millions were spent on fraud and unusable equipment.

“There are bits of it that I find extremely distasteful, but it’s a fact of life, Mishal, that you need people who want to make lots of money to go and do entrepreneurial things,” Lord Bethell replied.

Making money is legal.

He added: “There was a massive scramble for resources everywhere in the world and we did everything we could to get what was needed. No apologies.”

“Overall I think our response was as good as we could have had under the circumstances,” the former minister added, admitting to “micro-mistakes.”

The first part of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry involves assessing pandemic preparedness.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will appear before the investigation.

Leave a Reply