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Wed 27 May 2020
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Nafeez Ahmed reports on a new contract with the giant haulage firm whose executive chairman has donated nearly £1 million to the Conservatives.

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The Government has appointed a giant haulage firm with financial ties to the Conservative Party to be in charge of a new supply channel for personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS. 

Its founding executive chairman is Steven N. Parkin, a top Conservative Party donor who has attended Leaders Group meetings and donated just under £1 million to the party over the last five years or so.

In preceding weeks, the NHS has experienced major PPE supply shortages, even forcing the British Army to step in to assist according to HSJ. The Doctors Association UK has compiled a dossier of evidence indicating that NHS staff have been warned against speaking out about the critical shortages.

Cabinet Office documents confirm that the Government has been aware for more than a decade that a pandemic would create a “pinch point” in PPE availability. But little was done to prepare for this eventuality by adapting supply chains.

According to independent public health experts, despite anticipating the growth of the COVID-19 epidemic in the UK, the Government did nothing to prepare NHS Supply Chain capabilities for nearly two months. 

In an exclusive interview, former World Health Organisation (WHO) director Professor Anthony Costello told me that the failure would create a disaster: “We simply don’t have enough PPE. Not enough visors, not enough N95 respirators. Government is not following WHO guidelines.”

I contacted the UK Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to find out why it had selected Clipper Logistics to manage the COVID-19 supply chain and to obtain further details about the value and duration of the contract. I did not receive a response. 

Over the last half-decade, Clipper’s founder and chairman Steven Parkin has donated a total of £725,000 to the Conservative Party, including the most recent donation of £25,000 on 12 December 2019 – when the General Election resulted in Boris Johnson returning as the UK’s Prime Minister. 

From 2018, Parkin began attending Conservative Party Leaders Group meals. The Leaders Group, as the Conservative Party website explains, is “the premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party. Members are invited to join the Leader and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches”.

Meanwhile, Clipper has come under fire for failing to shut down ‘non-essential’ activity such as handling clothes refunds and putting employees at risk with warehouse staff being “crammed into corridors” with no hand sanitiser available “for weeks”.

While a Conservative Party donor profits handsomely from the Government’s laissez-faire approach to PPE, it is frontline healthcare workers whose lives are now at risk – putting in danger many vulnerable people needing urgent care at hospitals in London and around the country.

Clipper Logistics did not respond to request for comment.


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