Humza Yousaf: Scottish government discovered UK Covid policy via the news

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Original article by Finlay Johnston republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Scotland’s first minister also said information would often arrive ‘minutes before the meeting’

Humza Yousaf said he was “deeply frustrated” by the Boris Johnson government’s failure to collaborate with the Scottish government during the pandemic.

Scotland’s first minister, who served as both justice secretary and health secretary in the devolved government during the pandemic, told the Covid inquiry information was often arriving “at the absolute last minute before a meeting”.

“Five, ten minutes before the meeting was to start,” he explained. “Or we were reading about an announcement of a decision already been made by the UK government.”

Yousaf also criticised Alister Jack, the UK government’s secretary of state for Scotland.

“When we were on these phone calls [with the UK government], his [Jack’s] engagement was very limited and there would often be meetings where he wouldn’t say anything at all. Perhaps he was there to observe what was said on the meetings as opposed to necessarily contributing,” Yousaf said.

Jack and the Scottish government have had frequent run-ins, most notably around the Scottish government’s decision to reform gender recognition laws. Jack used his role to block the progressive legislation using unprecedented powers.

The UK’s Covid inquiry is currently focusing on how the Scottish government handled the crisis. Jack is due to give evidence next week.

The inquiry was also shown WhatsApp messages exchanged between Yousaf, while health secretary, and senior health adviser Jason Leitch.

The messages show Leitch advising Yousaf to keep a drink in his hands at all times when attending a function, so he didn’t have to wear a mask. Leitch also wrote “literally no one” was following the government advice, which at the time stated that you must wear a mask when not seated at a dinner.

Jamie Dawson, counsel to the inquiry, pushed Yousaf on whether he was being given a “workaround”.

Yousaf responded: “I never asked for a workaround or how not to comply and neither would I suggest that he was giving that.”

The inquiry saw another exchange of messages between Leitch and Yousaf where the pair discussed Nicola Sturgeon’s decision-making process.

Leitch and Yousaf were discussing a rise in cases in Glasgow in May 2021, when Yousaf became health secretary. The pair also discussed a meeting held between Leitch and Sturgeon relating to the rise in cases.

Leitch wrote: “There was some FM [First Minister] keep it small shenanigans as always, she actually wants none of us.”

Yousaf was asked at the inquiry whether Sturgeon frequently took decisions without full cabinet discussion.

“There were times when the former First Minister needed a tighter cast list[…] But I think this was a classic example of [Leitch] perhaps overspeaking,” he said.

Yousaf also apologised for the Scottish government’s failure to preserve WhatsApp messages and made reference to an announcement made earlier today to the Scottish parliament that there will be an external review into the use of mobile messaging apps.

Original article by Finlay Johnston republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingHumza Yousaf: Scottish government discovered UK Covid policy via the news

Eye watering legal cost of Sunak’s failed bid to withhold WhatsApp messages revealed

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One of the many occasions climate destroyer and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak uses a private jet.
One of the many occasions climate destroyer and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak uses a private jet.

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/12/eye-watering-legal-cost-of-sunaks-failed-bid-to-withhold-whatsapp-messages-revealed/

How much did the Government’s failed legal challenge over a Covid Inquiry request come to

The cost of an unsuccessful legal challenge, launched by Rishi Sunak’s Government to stop ministers from having to hand over all WhatsApp messages to the Covid Inquiry, has come to hundreds of thousands of pounds it has been revealed.

Nearly £200,000 was wasted on legal advice to the Government over its failed legal battle at the High Court, a lengthy Freedom of Information Act battle launched by Liberal Democrat spokesperson Ian Rex-Hawkes has exposed.

The Cabinet Office had disputed the inquiry’s demand to provide two years of WhatsApp messages, initiating a legal challenge under the grounds that some messages were personal and “unambiguously irrelevant”.

But its challenge was rejected and the government was forced to concede to the Covid Inquiry requests.

In its response to the FOI request, the Cabinet Office noted that “of November 2023 the total legal costs for the Judicial Review on the production of Government and Ministerial WhatsApp messages to the Inquiry were £192,739.”

However, despite the money spent and legal battle, both Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson have claimed to have lost large chunks of WhatsApp messages during the pandemic period anyway.

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/12/eye-watering-legal-cost-of-sunaks-failed-bid-to-withhold-whatsapp-messages-revealed/

Image of Elmo and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson
Image of Elmo (left) and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson (right)
Continue ReadingEye watering legal cost of Sunak’s failed bid to withhold WhatsApp messages revealed

Revealed: Cummings’ misogynistic slur about top civil servant in text to PM

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Original article by Finlay Johnston republished from Open Democracy.

Boris Johnson’s top adviser complained that he was having to ‘dodge stilettos’ from UK’s most senior female civil servant

Dominic Cummings called the UK’s most senior female civil servant a “c**t” in a misogynistic WhatsApp message sent to Boris Johnson and Lee Cain in August 2020.

He was referring to deputy cabinet secretary Helen MacNamara, who had commissioned a report into poor behaviour within the Cabinet Office.

The message in full reads: “If I have to come back to Helen’s bullshit with PET [propriety and ethics] designed to waste huge amounts of my time so I can’t spend it on other stuff – I will personally handcuff her and escort her from the building. I don’t care how it is done but that woman must be out of our hair – we cannot keep dealing with this horrific meltdown of the British state while dodging stilettos from that c**t. [sic]”

Cummings was asked by Hugo Keith, counsel to the inquiry, whether he treated “individuals in Downing Street with offence and misogyny”.

“Certainly not,” the former chief adviser to the PM responded.

“Was that aggressive and foulmouthed and misogynistic approach the correct way to manage fellow professionals?” Keith asked.

Alluding to the ongoing chaos regarding changes in the Cabinet Office at the time, Cummings said: “My language about Helen is obviously appalling and actually I got on with Helen at a personal level. But a thousand times worse than my bad language is the underlying issue at stake.”

The inquiry heard yesterday that MacNamara had commissioned a report into the culture at Number 10 in May 2020, which – according to the lead counsel to the inquiry Hugo Keith KC – had painted a picture of “misogyny” and a “macho” culture.

The report, titled ‘How can No.10 and the CO [Cabinet Office] better support the PM in the next phase’, says that “bad behaviours from senior leaders [are] tolerated” and “No.10 [is] always at war with someone”.

The report also singled out misogynistic behaviour including “junior women being talked over or ignored”.

The report paints a chaotic picture of what No.10 was like in the first months of Covid. MacNamara wrote that it was “not clear what we are trying to achieve”, “no one listens to anyone else” and that it was a “superhero bunfight”.

Cummings had touched on this behaviour in his evidence earlier in the day.

Discussing the Cabinet Office, which he described as a “dumpster fire”, he said: “There was a core problem, which is that private secretaries in the PM’s office are generally quite junior officials. Quite a few of them are young women and, at that meeting on 15 May and on other occasions, some of the young women in the private office said to me that they thought there was a serious problem with senior people in the Cabinet Office not paying attention to what they were saying, talking over them – generally just a bad culture of a lot of the senior male leadership in the Cabinet Office, which is something I agree with.”

Cummings also told Johnson in August 2020 his authority was “seriously damaged”. Cummings referred to cabinet ministers as “feral” and “useless fuckpigs”.

In a WhatsApp message on 23 August 2020, Cummings urged Johnson to sack health secretary Matt Hancock and Gavin Williamson.

“I also must stress I think leaving Hancock in post is a big mistake – he is a proven liar who nobody believes or shd [sic] believe on anything, and we face going into the autumn crisis with the cunt in charge of the NHS”, Cummings wrote.

Cummings also said: “Don’t think sustainable for GW [Gavin Williamson, then education secretary] to stay.” Boris Johnson responded saying: “Agree”. Williamson remained in post for over a year after this conversation.

The inquiry also heard yesterday that Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty, the country’s top scientific and medical officials respectively, resisted attempts by top political advisers to “strongarm” them into appearing at the Covid news conference on the same day Cummings was answering questions on the Barnard Castle scandal in the Downing Street garden.

Cummings had been accused of breaking lockdown regulations by driving his family to Durham in March 2020 while his wife had suspected Covid, before taking a family trip to the town of Barnard Castle days later. At the time, all non-essential travel was prohibited and people were allowed to take one short trip outside each day for the purposes of exercise. Cummings claimed at the time that he had been testing his eyesight ahead of the drive home, a suggestion that was widely ridiculed.

Vallance wrote in his diaries: “All highly political and dwarfed by DC [Dominic Cummings]. We tried to get out of it by suggesting that it was not the right day to announce new measures.”

The inquiry continues. openDemocracy is fundraising to pay reporters to cover every day of the public hearings. Please support us by donating here.

Original article by Finlay Johnston republished from Open Democracy.

Continue ReadingRevealed: Cummings’ misogynistic slur about top civil servant in text to PM

Boris Johnson’s indecisiveness led to lockdown delays, Covid inquiry hears

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Original article by Finlay Johnston and Indra Warnes republished from Open Democracy.

The prime minister’s ‘oscillating’ was partly to blame for a 10-day delay in announcing a national lockdown

Boris Johnson’s inability to make decisions “significantly impacted the pace and clarity of decision-making” in the early days of the pandemic, his former communications director told the Covid inquiry today.

Lee Cain, who worked for Johnson in 2020, said the then prime minister “oscillated” over whether to lock down for ten days after a meeting between senior government figures decided it was both essential and inevitable.

Attendees to the meeting, which took place on 14 March 2020, included Cain, Johnson, and Johnson’s special adviser, Dominic Cummings.

In his written evidence to the inquiry, Cain said: “The collective agreement in the room was that a full lockdown was the only strategy which could suppress the spread of Covid-19, save the NHS from collapse and ultimately buy the government more time.”

He continued: “It was only a matter of when, how hard, and how long the lockdown had to be.”

Johnson announced the first national lockdown on 23 March, ten days later. One factor in that delay, suggested Andrew O’Connor KC, counsel to the inquiry, was “indecison on the part of the prime minister”.

Quoting from Cain’s written evidence, O’Connor said: “The system works at its best when there’s clear direction from Number 10 and the prime minister, these moments of indecision significantly impacted the pace and clarity of decision-making across government.”

The inquiry was shown a WhatsApp message sent from Cain to Cummings on 19 March 2020, in which Cain complained he was “exhausted” by the prime minister. Asked by O’Connor why he was felt this way, Cain described Johnson as “challenging”.

Cain said: “Anyone who’s worked with the prime minister for a period of time will become exhausted with him sometimes. He can be quite a challenging character to work with, just because he will oscillate, he will take a decision from the last person in the room.”

O’Connor went on to ask Cain if he felt Johnson was “up to the job” of being prime minister in March 2020.

“It was the wrong crisis for this prime minister’s skillset,” Cain said, adding: “If you look at something like Covid, you need quick decisions and you need people to hold the course, and you know, have that strength of mind to do that over a sustained period of time and not constantly unpick things.”

In an earlier WhatsApp, Cummings had described Johnson as being in “jaws wank mode” in a meeting with Sunak, a reference to Johnson’s frequent statements that he did not want to be compared to the mayor who closed the beaches in the film Jaws.

Cummings added: “I’ve literally said the same thing ten fucking times and he [Johnson] still won’t absorb it”.

The inquiry also saw messages from 3 March 2020, in which Cain told Cummings that Johnson “doesn’t think [the pandemic] is a big deal and he doesn’t think anything can be done and his focus is elsewhere, he thinks it’ll be like swine flu and he thinks his main danger is talking economy into a slump”.

The inquiry continues.

Original article by Finlay Johnston and Indra Warnes republished from Open Democracy.

Continue ReadingBoris Johnson’s indecisiveness led to lockdown delays, Covid inquiry hears

Boris Johnson took no Covid updates during February 2020 half-term break

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Lazy Tory idiot and former part-time UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Original article by Ruby Lott-Lavigna and finlay johnston republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Boris Johnson did not receive any updates about the escalating Covid crisis during a school half-term break just weeks before he announced the first lockdown.

The Covid inquiry today heard that over ten days between 14 February and 24 February 2020, the prime minister received no information from his staff, including from the two COBRA meetings that took place.

Johnson spent the break – during which parliament was in recess – at Chevening House, a grace-and-favour Kent mansion. He was labelled a “part-time prime minister” by then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and accused of “sulking in a mansion” while coronavirus unfolded and large parts of the UK were devastated by flooding. Johnson insisted the government had been working “flat out”.

When asked today why he did not update the PM with any information on Covid, Johnson’s former parliamentary private secretary (PPS) Martin Reynolds said he “could not recall”.

Hugo Keith, chief counsel to the inquiry, told him: “There were no emails. There were no notes put in his red box. You don’t appear to have been in touch with him about coronavirus, or anybody else.”

“To what extent did you think to yourself we’ve got…emails about a viral pandemic coming our way? Why was nothing done in terms of keeping the prime minister in the loop in those ten days?” he asked.

Reynolds responded: “I cannot recall why and whether there was any urgent business to transact over that period with the PM.”

When asked whether it was because it was half-term, Reynolds said he was “happy to accept it was half-term”.

The day before the PM’s ten-day information blackout, a cabinet reshuffle had taken place that saw the resignation of chancellor Sajid Javid, who was replaced by Rishi Sunak.

By 27 February, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies had discussed the “reasonable worst case scenario” in which 80% of the UK population became infected, with a 1% fatality rate – which would mean up to 500,000 deaths.

The PM’s top aide added he “probably should have done more” to keep the prime minister updated on the biggest crisis since the Second World War.

Reynolds agreed that “little had been done” between the middle of February and early March.

He also agreed that the ten-day gap in pandemic planning was an “untoward delay” which contributed to the virus being “out of control” by 13 March.

The inquiry continues.

Original article by Ruby Lott-Lavigna and finlay johnston republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingBoris Johnson took no Covid updates during February 2020 half-term break

Boris Johnson ignored warnings from Covid scientists about public messaging

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Original article by Finlay Johnston republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Image of Elmo and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson
Image of Elmo (left) and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson (right)

A Cabinet Office scientist who raised concerns over ‘stay alert’ was told it was ‘too late’. SAGE was not even asked

The government’s scientific advisers said they were cut out of decisions on pandemic messaging and compared Boris Johnson to Donald Trump after he tweeted out new guidance before they could flag concerns.

The Covid inquiry today heard the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was not given the chance to advise on the ‘stay alert’ slogan before it was announced by the PM on social media in May 2020. The new messaging, which replaced the ‘stay home’ slogan as the first wave of the virus began to ease off, was heavily criticised at the time for being confusing.

An email was shown from Theresa Marteau, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), in which she told fellow members that the ‘stay alert’ messaging had “the potential to do much damage” and said “our advice has not been sought”.

Marteau said the proposed new guidance could increase the R number – the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person – bringing “all the expected negative health and economic consequences”.

She told colleagues that government officials should be urgently made aware of their “concerns” and they needed to “intervene” before the message went out to the public that evening.

But further emails showed the scientists’ responding to Johnson tweeting out the message before they were able to advise on it. They expressed concern about his decision and one wrote: “We have learnt so much from Donald Trump…”

Another email shown to the inquiry revealed that a behavioural scientist in the Cabinet Office who worked on government communications did raise concerns about the guidance after finding out about it, “only to be told it was too late”.

The official said, in another email shown to the inquiry, that their team had not been consulted. In the email to SAGE members, they wrote: “The messages are kept so elusive by a small group of mainly number 10 advisers”.

They added: “I am so sorry that despite being the behavioural scientists inside the government communications service we don’t have a handle on this either. It’s so often partially political and in this case I was also told they wanted to keep it deliberately small so that there’s not too many cooks, which is also a cultural issue.”

In another email, the head of the SPI-B group of behavioural scientists said chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had issued a warning that members of SAGE and SPI-B should avoid “getting drawn into a govt operational move and losing reputation as a response”.

The email also suggested those inside No.10 were “concerned about our correspondence”.

Lucy Yardley, co-chair of the SPI-B group and a behavioural science expert, said following this incident: “Things didn’t improve in terms of being consulted…on the whole the communications tended to go ahead with very little input from SPI-B.”

Days after the new messaging was announced, Johnson was accused of misleading Parliament by suggesting Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty had signed off on it.

James Rubin, who chaired the group alongside Yardley, earlier told the inquiry that their advice was not heeded and that it “seemed to disappear into a black hole”.

Rubin gave the example of explicitly advising the government against using fear in their messaging when a new variant of Covid arose in December 2020.

“We argued against [using fear] on multiple occasions,” he said.

The inquiry was then shown WhatsApp messages from Matt Hancock, then health secretary, and Simon Case, cabinet secretary.

In the exchanges, Hancock and Case said they intended to “frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain” and that “ramping up..the fear/guilt factor [is] vital”.

Yardley also expressed her concern about the government’s Eat Out to Help Out campaign.

“The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ slogan… that came at a really crucially problematic time, because it was during the summer and that was when there was a really missed opportunity. That was when the infections were low and we could have all hopefully kept them low”, she said.

The inquiry continues.

Original article by Finlay Johnston republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingBoris Johnson ignored warnings from Covid scientists about public messaging

Sunak under pressure to come clean as Covid inquiry hears ‘politics’ drove public messaging

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps. Credit: Simon Dawson / 10 Downing Street, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/sunak-under-pressure-to-come-clean-as-covid-inquiry-hears-politics-drove-public-messaging

RISHI SUNAK will come under pressure on Friday to explain why he ignored expert warnings during the pandemic, after the Covid inquiry heard politics drove government’s public messaging about the virus.

TUC assistant general secretary Kate Bell is giving evidence to the hearing this morning and has said the Prime Minister has “serious questions to answer” after the Treasury “massively undermined” Britain’s public health effort.

“It pushed up infection rates, put a huge strain on our public services and ballooned the cost of Test and Trace,” she said.

“The Prime Minister must come clean about why these decisions were taken, especially when senior government advisers were warning that people couldn’t afford to stay home when sick.

“And he must explain why he saw fit to spend more on Eat Out to Help Out than on helping people to self-isolate.

“The failure to provide proper financial support was an act of self-sabotage that left millions brutally exposed to the pandemic.”

This week the inquiry heard that Mr Sunak blocked chief medical officer Chris Whitty’s calls in May of 2020 for “an accessible offer of financial support” to help reduce the risk of “no adherence” to Covid rules.

The TUC will urge Mr Sunak on Friday to answer why he didn’t provide better statutory sick pay (SSP) than just £94 a week, which left the average worker facing a £418 drop in earnings if they had to self-isolate.

The government had been warned at the start of the pandemic that two million workers had no sick pay protection at all, it added, noting that 23 per cent of the country’s workforce had to rely on SSP if they needed to self-isolate during the pandemic, rising to three in 10 for the lowest paid.

Meanwhile freedom of information requests showed the then-chancellor spent more than £800 million on Eat Out to Help Out than the £385m on funding the self-isolation scheme.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/sunak-under-pressure-to-come-clean-as-covid-inquiry-hears-politics-drove-public-messaging

Continue ReadingSunak under pressure to come clean as Covid inquiry hears ‘politics’ drove public messaging

Privileges Committee finds that Boris Johnson knowingly misled Parliament over partygate

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https://leftfootforward.org/2023/06/privileges-committee-finds-that-boris-johnson-knowingly-misled-parliament-over-partygate/

Image of Elmo and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson
Image of Elmo (left) and former Prime Minister Tory idiot Boris Johnson (right)

The Committee recommended that had Boris still been a sitting MP that he would have been suspended for 90 days.

The Privileges Committee has found that Boris Johnson deliberately misled parliament over lockdown parties in Downing Street on numerous occasions.

The 30,000-word report also revealed that the Committee recommended that had Boris still been a sitting MP that he would have been suspended for 90 days. It wrote: “We conclude that when he told the House and this Committee that the rules and guidance were being complied with, his own knowledge was such that he deliberately misled the House and this committee.”

The committee also recommended that Johnson should have his access to Parliament as a former MP revoked.

The scathing report, which was made up of a majority of Conservatives and was unanimous in its verdict, also found that Johnson’s contempt has no precedent. It stated:

“The contempt was all the more serious because it was committed by the prime minister, the most senior member of the government.

“There is no precedent for a prime minister having been found to have deliberately misled the House.”

https://leftfootforward.org/2023/06/privileges-committee-finds-that-boris-johnson-knowingly-misled-parliament-over-partygate/

Continue ReadingPrivileges Committee finds that Boris Johnson knowingly misled Parliament over partygate

Revealed: How ‘unfit’ PPE helped former playboy buy two mansions

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Original article by Adam Bychawski republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Glove tycoon Robert Gros splashed millions on luxury homes and planned to build cinema, disco and golf simulator

An estimated £27m worth of gowns supplied by Gros’s company were later deemed “not fit for use”. Image: Katia Ponnampalam, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A former ‘playboy’-turned-businessman made a fortune supplying PPE during the pandemic, even though the NHS may be unable to use millions of the gowns his company delivered, openDemocracy can reveal.

Chemical Intelligence Limited was awarded a £126m contract to supply 21 million medical gowns that were desperately needed to protect NHS workers treating Covid patients in May 2020. But data released to openDemocracy through freedom of information law shows the Department of Health and Social Care later deemed 4.5 million of them – worth an estimated total of £27m – “not fit for use” in the NHS. 

Lawyers acting on behalf of Robert Gros, the sole owner and CEO of Chemical Intelligence, said Gros could not comment because he “did not recognise these figures or amounts”.

The bumper PPE contract allowed Gros, 51, to turn around his business, which had made losses two years running prior. Chemical Intelligence declared profits of £33m for the year up to September 2020 according to accounts filed on Companies House. It had just two employees, including Gros, when it landed the multi-million pound government contract.

Gros personally splashed out on a £4m country pile just four months after he clinched the PPE deal. In 2021, after his company reported a further £31m in profits, he bought a second £2m country home and asked for planning permission to fit a basement bowling alley in the first.

The businessman then paid himself £7m in dividends in January 2022 – after having already loaned himself £6m the year before. Two months later, he transferred £40m in dividends to a holding company that he entirely owns. 

Gros would only answer our questions through his lawyers, who told us that he has paid all the necessary corporation tax and that the £4om would “continue to be reinvested” in his business.

The £126m contract was one of many for which the government apparently paid over the odds as demand for PPE skyrocketed during the pandemic and it did not have enough stockpiled. Gowns cost the government 1,260% more than they did before the pandemic, according to the National Audit Office.

A fifth of gowns supplied by Chemical Intelligence were labelled “not fit for use” because they “failed the technical, clinical or regulatory compliance assessment”, openDemocracy understands. The department would not elaborate on why the gowns failed checks, but according to the data released under FOI their value has been written down to £0.

“The department has processes in place to review the quality of PPE and determine whether products are suitable to be released to the frontline,” said a spokesperson. “Upon receipt, a sample of each product is reviewed by DHSC’s Technical and Regulatory Assurance team.

“A proportion of this stock was classified as ‘do not supply’. Stock in this category has not necessarily fallen short of standards and in many cases these products can be used in other settings.”

Gros’s lawyers insisted that all the PPE the company had supplied was “fit for purpose and use”, suggesting the DHSC may have been mistaken in its record-keeping. The department confirmed that Chemical Intelligence also supplied £35m worth of face masks and disposable surgical aprons under separate contracts also awarded in 2020, none of which was deemed unusable.

Of the £12bn the government spent in total on PPE, £4bn worth cannot be used by the NHS because it doesn’t meet the right standards, according to a 2022 report by the Public Accounts CCommittee of MPs.

Gros’s lawyers said that the sharp rise in profits for Chemical Intelligence was not all down to PPE deals he struck during the pandemic, and threatened openDemocracy with an injunction if we revealed details about his mansions.

The businessman, who had a reputation as a “playboy” in the late 1990s after dating a string of soap stars, appears to have made the most of his new fortune. The Cambridgeshire house he bought a few months after the contract was signed had six bedrooms, four reception rooms, a swimming pool and a gym, all heated by three boilers.

Three months later, he lodged a planning application with Cambridge City Council to more than double the size of the property. The proposed plan included the addition of a basement housing a dance floor, a two-lane bowling alley, a golf simulator, a room for arcade machines and a cinema.

Gros was forced to withdraw the application after it was rejected by planners for being too “modern” in style; neighbours had also raised concerns about the potential noise from the proposed bowling alley and dance floor. He resubmitted a new application in November, which was approved in April.

In June 2021, through another company of which he was the sole owner, Gros bought a second mansion with six bedrooms, three garages and an outdoor pool for £2m in a neighbouring village.

Chemical Intelligence, which Gros founded in 2012, develops medical examination gloves, which have been licensed to and manufactured by Malaysian firm Hartalega since 2017.

Hartalega is one of several Malaysian glove manufacturers that have been accused of using modern slavery. A leaked report by the Home Office in 2019 found there was “strong evidence” to suggest that the majority of Malaysian glove manufacturers that supply the NHS, which include Hartalega, “exhibit forced labour indicators”.

Lawyers acting for Chemical Intelligence said that the company “takes the issue of modern slavery extremely seriously and carried out its own due diligence to seek to satisfy itself that throughout the manufacturing process all of the correct procedures and safeguards are in place”.

Chemical Intelligence was one of 58 suppliers awarded a contract to supply medical gloves to the NHS in January 2022, but no information has been published on whether it has yet done so.

Original article by Adam Bychawski republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

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Continue ReadingRevealed: How ‘unfit’ PPE helped former playboy buy two mansions

Hancock slammed for attempting to deny responsibility for tens of thousands of Covid deaths

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/hancock-slammed-for-attempting-to-deny-responsibility-for-tens-of-thousands-of-covid-deaths

Matt Hancock, former Health Minister and twat. Image: Crown copyright

MATT HANCOCK’S attempts to deny responsibility for the tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths in care homes were slammed as a “deluded version” of events today.

National Care Association chairwoman Nadra Ahmed said the recollections of the former health secretary, who was forced to resign last year after breaking his own social distancing rules, “bear no resemblance to the facts.”

The West Suffolk MP, who now sits as an independent after being thrown out of the Tory Party over his widely criticised appearance on ITV’s reality show I’m a Celebrity, said that the virus was primarily brought into care homes by infected staff members.

The claim came despite the ex-Cabinet minister allowing untested hospital patients to be discharged into care settings in the early days of the pandemic in spring 2020.

Continue ReadingHancock slammed for attempting to deny responsibility for tens of thousands of Covid deaths