Alun Cairns ends role with company handed millions of pounds worth of NHS contracts without competition
A controversial consultancy role held by Welsh Conservative MP Alun Cairns with a company handed millions of pounds worth of NHS contracts without competition has come to an end.
Nation.Cymru revealed in July 2020 that the Vale of Glamorgan MP had started a £15,000-a-year second job giving “strategic advice” to the BBI Group, a south Wales company producing Covid tests.
It was branded “cronyism” by his former Welsh Conservative colleague Antoinette Sandbach and both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for an investigation into contracts handed to the company.
A consortium including the BBI Group was directly awarded a contract worth £75 million by the UK Government the following month. The BBI Group and its subsidiaries have also been directly awarded at least three more NHS contracts worth almost £200,000 since then.
The updated register of MPs’ interests released today shows Cairns parted ways with the company on January 31, having earned £23,750 over 19 months in the role to which he gave up to 70 hours a year.
Alun Cairns’ appointment to the role was approved by the UK Government’s anti-corruption watchdog Acoba, albeit on the condition of a two-year lobbying ban for Cairns, and there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the MP or the BBI Group.
But Cairns’ break with the company comes amid renewed scrutiny over the UK Government’s operation of a so-called ‘VIP Lane’ for Covid-related contracts.
The Good Law Project has this week revealed leaked emails which they say show PPE suppliers were given “VIP treatment” by the UK Government and won a High Court ruling that the appointment of the UK Government’s test and trace tsar was unlawful.
The Good Law Project is also seeking a judicial review of the way contracts were awarded to the consortium involving the BBI Group.
Labour has called on the UK Government to release any communications with MPs, including Cairns, related to any Covid contracts, with shadow cabinet office minister Fleur Anderson saying: “There are significant questions to answer regarding how these companies and MPs relate to government Ministers and government policy”.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds has also called for an investigation into how the contracts involving the BBI Group were awarded. “Public money should always go to the best companies, not those with friends in high places or who can afford to pay a Conservative MP for exclusive access,” she said.
Cairns still has two other jobs outside Westminster from which he earns £45,000 a year and which have also attracted controversy.
Unlock Democracy said the Vale of Glamorgan MP was “walking a tightrope” after becoming vice-chair of the Westminster interest group for the taxi industry months after becoming a paid adviser to a major taxi company, Veezu.
He is also an adviser to the Singapore-based global property investment firm, Elite Partners Capital. A freedom of information request revealed last month that he had previously given advice to the company on securing investment as part of the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal while a member of the Cabinet.
In November, Cairns voted against a Labour motion in the Commons which called for MPs to be “banned from any paid work to provide services as a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant” as suggested by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
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