Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called for greater transparency from the government in its handling of emergency Covid contracts. Mr Carmichael asked ministers if the government would publish full details on the process used to assign billions of pounds of public money to suppliers during the pandemic and the role of ministers in steering public procurement towards specific contractors.
Speaking in the House Mr Carmichael said:
“The government was able to award contracts using their high priority lane because this house gave them the power to do so. We did it effectively on trust. So, can I ask the minister if she will now repay the trust that this House placed in the government by publishing not just the details of those contracts that were put through that high priority lane but the details also of those who introduced these contractors to government, the basis of which it was thought appropriate to put them through the high priority lane, and the economic outcomes of these decisions. “
Responding for the Government, Julia Lopez MP said:
“There are 47 [contracts] that went through the high priority lane and discussions are underway as to the extent to which we can be transparent about that because of commercial sensitivities. But the contracts in relation to PPE, as I say, have now all transparently been published.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“These emergency contracts are a serious matter and raise concerning questions about government propriety in the spending of billions of pounds. It is a little depressing therefore that the SNP have chosen to reduce this to yet another argument about the minutiae of independence rather than the far bigger issues that we have to contend with. Not for the first time in a tiff between the Tories and the nationalists, the issues that really matter get forgotten. The focus must be on the propriety of these contracts – the public deserve clear answers from ministers.”