Labour asks for communications with Alun Cairns and three other MPs to be looked at over lobbying concerns
The Labour Party have asked the UK Government’s cabinet secretary to investigate officials’ communication with four Conservative MPs, including former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.
It was revealed by Nation.Cymru in October that a Welsh company that employs the Vale of Glamorgan MP was handed two NHS contracts by the UK Government without competition.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Fleur Anderson said she had written to the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, asking him to investigate communications with Alun Cairns, the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Pawsey and Philip Dunne.
In her letter to Case, Anderson said that “the companies that they are paid by have won government contracts and there are significant questions to answer regarding how these companies and MPs relate to government Ministers and government policy”.
“As we have seen with the Owen Paterson corruption scandal, many of these cases of consultancy and advisory work involve correspondence and meetings between Ministers, officials, companies and the MPs they pay as consultants. I am sure you will want to address any concerns around propriety,” she said.
Focusing on Alun Cairns, she said: “It has been reported that the former Welsh secretary took a £15,000-a-year job at a diagnostics company a few weeks before it was part of a consortium that secured a £75 million government contract for lateral flow tests,” she wrote.
“Alongside parliamentary duties, he agreed to work up to 70 hours a year for the BBI Group as a senior adviser ‘providing strategic advice to the board’.”
Cairns has been working as a £15,000-a-year senior advisor to the BBI Group since last July.
His appointment to the firm, which was already part of a consortium supplying Covid tests to the UK Government, was controversial even among Conservatives. Former Tory MP and MS Antoinette Sandbach described it as “cronyism”.
The UK Government’s corruption watchdog ACOBA warned at the time there was an “inherent risk it could be perceived [Cairns’] contacts might assist BBI Group unfairly” although they approved the appointment subject to two-year lobbying ban.
In November 2020, Novarum DX Ltd was awarded a £46,270 contract for “Covid-19 lateral flow image recognition technology” as part of the UK Government’s test and trace programme.
In July this year, the BBI Group subsidiary was given a contract worth £99,450 to develop a “Covid digital reader”.
Both contracts were awarded through a “single tender action”, which means the UK Government awarded it directly to the company without competition.
A Freedom of Information request for correspondence related to the contacts was rejected by the Department of Health.
Cairns’ role with the BBI Group is one of three side jobs he has taken since stepping down as Wales Secretary. The others as a £15,000-a-year advisor to private hire taxi operator Veezu, which owns Dragon Taxis, and as a £30,000-a-year advisor to Elite Capital Partners, a Singapore-based property investment firm.
There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the MP or the companies involved. Nation.Cymru contacted both Alun Cairns and the BBI Group at the time for comment.
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