Another Conservative Donor Involved in COVID-19 Contracts
Stephen Delahunty reports on the work of Europa Worldwide Group in providing PPE – the managing director of which is a personal donor to Boris Johnson.
The boss of a logistics firm and vocal supporter of the Vote Leave campaign has become the latest Conservative donor or Conservative Party MP found to be involved in Coronavirus contracts.
Andrew Baxter, the managing director of Europa Worldwide Group, personally donated £10,000 to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June 2019 and has made tens of thousands of pounds in donations to the Conservative Party since 2017, according to the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, website.
Logistics Manager News reported that “Baxter was a prominent supporter of the Leave campaign during the referendum three years ago, with now Prime Minister Boris Johnson visiting Europa’s Dartford hub to launch his campaign in March 2016”.
Last month, Byline Times revealed how haulage firm Clipper Logistics was 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 past five years or so.
An investigation by Buzzfeed News also revealed that the Conservative MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, has been a consultant to Randox Laboratories – which offers rapid ‘COVID-19 home testing kits’ for sale – since August 2015. According to the register of MPs’ financial interests, Paterson has declared that he expects to receive £8,333 a month from the company, starting from April 2017.
Europa Worldwide Group boasts on its website that it is “specifically handling PPE products, the new team at Europa is responsible for ensuring swift despatch to large-scale medical equipment providers. These are suppliers to the NHS, contributing towards the national effort to help those on the frontline”.
It goes on: “Working closely with trusted partners at source including Turkey, Israel, China, Hong Kong and the USA, Europa Air & Sea has supported a variety of UK customers meet the demand for supplies, including in the e-commerce sector.”
The company states that it has also “directly enabled the UK manufacture of 1.3 million COVID-19 tests for its customer Primerdesign. Europa Road provided dedicated transport of vital components, as well as ensuring smooth customs clearance”.
Despite the company’s partners in Turkey, it denied any involvement with the failed shipment of PPE for the NHS from Turkey. The much-trumpeted procurement of 400,000 protective gowns that eventually arrived later had to be impounded after some items were found not to conform to UK standards.
The saga was the latest in a series of highly publicised Government Coronavirus initiatives that have failed to deliver the promised results. Its “ventilator challenge” asked companies such as Rolls-Royce and Dyson to begin producing the machines, but none have reached the final stages of testing and the majority have proved surplus to requirements.
Europe Worldwide Group denied winning any “direct public sector contracts” but its links to the Prime Minister come at a time when the Government is under increasing pressure for its lack of competition or transparency in the awarding of contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Byline Times also reported last month how controversial contracts, which allow ministers and senior health officials to mine confidential data from tens of thousands of COVID-19 hospital patients, have been awarded to technology companies without being put out to competitive tender.
The contracts involve five companies – Microsoft, Google, Amazon Web Services, Palantir Technology UK and Faculty. Two of the contractors – Palantir and Faculty – are highly controversial either because of links to the CIA and the Donald Trump administration; or to Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor and the former head of the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU Referendum, which was found to have breached UK electoral law by overspending.
In addition, an artificial intelligence firm previously hired by Cummings to work on the Vote Leave campaign has been intimately involved in research and development for the NHS contact tracing app. Launched by NHSX – a NHS subsidiary focused on digital innovation – the app is currently being trialled on the Isle of Wight.
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care defended the Government’s procurement methods describing them as “completely in line with procurement regulations for exceptional circumstances, where being able to procure at speed has been critical in the national response to COVID-19.
“As part of an unprecedented response to this global pandemic we have drawn on the expertise and resources of a number of public and private sector partners to support our NHS and social care sector.”