Firm referred by new Tory chairman won £25.8m coronavirus PPE contract
A lifestyle firm got a £25.8 million personal protective equipment (PPE) contract after being referred to officials by Tory chairman Greg Hands.
Luxe Lifestyle was awarded the contract as the Government scrambled to obtain PPE during the coronavirus pandemic.
Emails obtained by the Good Law Project show Mr Hands was approached on his personal email account by Mark Higton – a former chairman of the Hammersmith Conservatives – on April 7, 2020 with information about a contact offering PPE and ventilators.
Three days later, Chelsea and Fulham MP Mr Hands passed the offer onto officials, and Luxe Lifestyle was subsequently awarded a contract to supply gowns and masks.
Mr Hands, who was a trade minister at the time, had no role beyond forwarding on the details.
A spokeswoman for the Tory chairman said: “Minister Hands forwarded a message from someone who contacted him to the relevant officials.
“Minister Hands had no further role or involvement in the process, and was unaware of any outcome.”
The Guardian reported that a subsequent freedom of information request revealed that nine million items worth £20 million provided by Luxe Lifestyle were labelled “do not supply” by the Government, meaning they were not used.
The contract with Luxe Lifestyle – which is billed as working in specialised design activities” – is understood to be under review by the Government.
A spokesperson for Luxe Lifestyle told the Guardian: “Luxe Lifestyle’s contract to supply PPE was negotiated on an arm length basis through MoD procurement officers, seconded to the DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care).
“The company was awarded a single contract for two out of six products offered via a competitive process based on price and availability.
“No minister was ever directly contacted by the company and all products offered were uploaded on to the relevant DSHC PPE procurement website established by the Government at the time of the pandemic for review and assessment alongside other PPE providers.
“No-one at the company has ever contacted or spoken to Greg Hands.”
A Government spokesman said: “Ministers had no involvement in any procurement decisions.
“During the pandemic, potential suppliers often passed on offers of PPE to MPs, civil servants and ministers.
“These offers for support were passed to procurement teams for assessment.”
Officials have insisted the criteria to assess offers of help were the same, no matter whether they were referred to the Government or came straight from suppliers.
The deal with Luxe Lifestyle was not listed as being in the high-priority lane, the so-called “VIP lane” set up in April 2020 to follow up on potential offers of PPE supplies from government officials, ministers’ offices, parliamentarians, senior NHS staff and other health professionals, that were considered to be more credible than other offers.
It was categorised as a “new buy”, covering firms which did not sit on existing frameworks to supply PPE.
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