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Keir Starmer accuses government of spending £150m on zero face masks

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Boris Johnson was accused by Keir Starmer at PMQs of 'spraying money at companies who don’t deliver'. (Parliamentlive.tv)
Boris Johnson was accused by Keir Starmer at PMQs of 'spraying money at companies who don’t deliver'. (Parliamentlive.tv)
  • Starmer attacks Boris Johnson over private sector partnerships during pandemic

  • Labour leader cites £150m face mask contract that delivered no usable face masks

  • ‘Government prefers to spray money at companies that don’t deliver rather than people who are struggling’

  • Johnson defends private sector involvement, pointing to Monday’s vaccine breakthrough by Pfizer

  • Visit the Yahoo homepage for more stories

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has hit out at the government for spending £150m on zero face masks.

In his latest Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) clash with Boris Johnson, Starmer rounded on the government’s partnership with the private sector during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starmer accused Johnson’s government’s of preferring to “spray money at companies who don’t deliver” rather than people and businesses who are struggling because of the crisis.

He pointed to a £150m contact given to Ayanda Capital to “deliver face masks” and asked Johnson “how many usable face masks were actually provided to NHS workers on the frontline under that contract”.

The PM, while not answering the question, nonetheless appeared to preempt it as he admitted some companies had provided personal protective equipment (PPE) “more effectively than others”.

Starmer then answered his own question.

“The answer is none. Not a single face mask. At a cost of £150m. That’s not an isolated example.”

He then attacked the government for providing a £347m contact to Randox, “The same company that had to recall 750,000 unused COVID tests earlier this summer on safety grounds.”

Watch: Starmer accuses Johnson of 'spraying money' at PR firms

The government has come under fire for its reliance on private sector companies during the pandemic, such as Serco’s controversial involvement with the struggling NHS Test and Trace system.

In his attack, Starmer said: “There’s a sharp contrast between the way the government sprays money at companies who don’t deliver and their reluctance to provide long-term support to businesses and working people at the sharp end of this crisis.”

Johnson, however, was steadfast in his defence of the private sector, pointing to Monday’s coronavirus vaccine breakthrough by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, with early studies showing its jab is 90% effective.

He said: “It’s the private sector, no matter how much the party opposite [Labour] may hate them, that provides the scientific breakthroughs.”

Read more: Jonathan Van-Tam says Boris Johnson shouldn't be at front of COVID vaccine queue

The government’s private sector spending has once again been under scrutiny after it emerged vaccines tsar Kate Bingham awarded a reported £670,000 contract to PR consultants Admiral Associates.

The deal with the private company raised questions given the availability of Downing Street’s own extensive media operation.

Watch: 8 exceptions to England's second national lockdown

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