THERE are calls for an inquiry after Priti Patel was accused of a “glaring and flagrant” breach of the ministerial code over PPE lobbying.
The Home Secretary lobbied fellow minister Michael Gove on behalf of a healthcare company trying to secure a £20 million PPE deal.
The Daily Mail revealed that in April 2020, Patel lobbied Gove over a £20m contract for masks for Pharmaceutical Direct Ltd after being approached by former adviser and Tory candidate Samir Jassal.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the surgical masks were not suitable for the NHS. Weeks later, the company secured a deal worth £102.6m to supply a different kind of mask.
According to the newspaper Patel did not declare Jassal’s approach or mention his links to the firm.
The Good Law Project is challenging the deal in a High Court judicial review.
Patel’s spokesperson denied any wrongdoing and said: “The Home Secretary rightly followed up representations made to her about the vital supply of PPE.
“During a time of national crisis failure to do so would have been a dereliction of duty.”
Labour have written a letter to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, signed by its deputy leader and shadow home secretary, saying: “It is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the Home Secretary lobbied the Government on behalf of PDL as a favour to her friend, Samir Jassal.
“This would represent a glaring and flagrant breach of the ministerial code.”
The newspaper reports that PDL believed it was close to sealing a £20m deal, but failed to do so. Sales chief Surbjit Shergill then wrote to Patel following an introduction from Jassal.
In his letter, he said: “Many thanks for speaking to Samir [Jassal] and allowing me to contact you with my current issue.”
On May 3, 2020, Patel wrote to the Cabinet Office which was co-ordinating the procurement of PPE. She included the letter from Shergill and asked Gove to “review this matter ugently”.
In July, PDL won the more lucrative contract for higher quality masks.
The Good Law Project’s Jolyon Maugham QC commented: “Priti Patel may not have secured PDL a contract when they first tried to get one in April, but we hope to determine whether her representations or those of other ministerial contacts of PDL helped when they were awarded their much more lucrative deal in July.”
Meanwhile, former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve called the findings “quite astonishing”.
PDL’s chief executive Bemal Patel said the company had met its full obligations under the contract and added Jassal “was not employed” by them.