Home Secretary Priti Patel has been accused of a “flagrant breach” of the ministerial code by allegedly lobbying a fellow minister in an effort to secure a healthcare firm access to a £20 million personal protective equipment (PPE) deal.
Labour has urged Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate the Home Secretary over suggestions she attempted to sway the award of a contract after being approached by a Tory activist.
The Daily Mail reported that Ms Patel lobbied Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in April last year during efforts to secure the contract for Pharmaceuticals Direct Limited (PDL).
Her efforts were said to have failed after Health Secretary Matt Hancock decided the masks were “not suitable for the NHS”.
But PDL was awarded a £102.7 million contract weeks later in July to provide a different type of mask, during which Samir Jassal was also the contact.
Mr Jassal has stood as a Conservative candidate at two general elections and has met Boris Johnson and David Cameron.
A spokesman for Ms Patel: “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.”
However, Labour urged the Cabinet Secretary to investigate Ms Patel in a letter signed by deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds.
They said there is “no evidence that the Home Secretary had any interest” in the PPE deal until contacted by Mr Jassal, suggesting she did it “as a favour to her friend”.
“This would represent a glaring and flagrant breach of the ministerial code,” they said.
They pointed to the principle that “ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise”.
Last year the ministerial standards adviser found Ms Patel’s conduct “amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying” but the Prime Minister overruled the finding as ultimate arbiter of the code.
The Government already faced possible legal action over the £102.7 million contract from the Good Law Project as it investigates how coronavirus contracts were awarded.
Jolyon Maugham, director of the campaign, said: “Why did Jassal, a man connected to past and present Tory PMs, ministers and peers, reach out to Priti Patel for help?
“What was his role in winning the £103 million contract? What relationship did his connections with the party have to the £103 million contract won by Pharmaceuticals Direct?
“These are the questions at the heart of our judicial review of this most troubling of PPE contracts.”
Mr Jassal and PDL have been contacted for comment.