Labour step up attack on Government’s Procurement Bill, branding it a “charter for cronies” – by Staff Reporter

The Labour Party is stepping up its attack on Government’s Procurement Bill, branding it a “charter for cronies” and claiming that £3.7 billion was handed out to Conservative Party “friends and donors” during the COVID pandemic.


Ahead of today’s Commons Second Reading of the Government’s Procurement Bill, Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner has accused the Conservatives of writing a “charter for cronies” that would legalise the COVID “VIP Lane” and hand more power to Ministers.


It comes as a new Labour analysis suggests that £3.7 billion of taxpayers’ money was dished out to “friends and donors” ofthe Conservative Party since the start of the pandemic.


Loopholes included in the proposed legislation will make it easier for ministers to bypass existing rules for the award of taxpayers’ money, cementing into law the controversial ‘VIP lane’ that saw £1.7 billion of public money dished out and which Labour say was declared illegal by the High Court last year. The Government had previously denied the existence of the channel.


Labour have vowed to put forward amendments in the Committee Stage of the Bill to outlaw VIP lanes illegal as well as introduce non-performance “clawback clauses” into the contracts so that failed providers will have to refund taxpayers’ money.


The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party will call on the Government to act to ensure transparency in public spending, as well as urging Ministers to maximise post-Brexit opportunities by ensuring procurement funding boosts decent local businesses who pay their taxes and treat workers fairly.


During the Lords stages of the Bill, the Government was defeated on five of the six amendments that were put to a vote. The only vote the Tories whipped their peers to turnout for was to block an amendment to ban the “VIP Lane”.


While Labour backs the principle of consolidating the spaghetti of different procurement rules to create a more straight-forward framework, the Party will signal to Ministers that they must remove dangerous loopholes from the Bill.


Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster and Deputy Leader, commented: “This Government is presiding over a procurement racket at the expense of the British people. Under the Tories, cronies have never had it so good.


“They cut murky deals in the dark with their mates using taxpayers’ money and this Procurement Bill would hand them a golden ticket to do it all over again.


“This Bill is a charter for cronies. Labour is demanding ministers act to ensure genuine transparency and clawback in contracts.

“Under a Labour Government there will be no hiding place for cronies and no corner for corruption. We’ll give the Tory sleaze merchants their marching orders, end handouts to tax havens and strike off failed providers.


“Labour will put the national interest at the heart of public spending with a National Procurement Plan to end the race to the bottom and raise standards by unleashing the potential of public procurement to boost jobs, skills and growth.”


We have approached the Conservative Party for a comment.