THE number of firms awarded contracts through the Tories' unlawful VIP lane for lucrative government deals is almost 40 per cent higher than previously admitted.

The companies which benefited from the illegal lane but remained concealed by the UK Government accounted for a spend of almost £1 billion, according to Good Law Project.

The project claimed leaked documents it had seen showed “the Government misled Parliament, the National Audit Office [NAO] and the High Court about the size of the illegal VIP lane”.

In November 2021, a lost freedom of information (FOI) battle forced the UK Government to reveal a list of 50 firms it said had been handed contracts through the VIP referral scheme.

This was three higher than the 47 firms the Government told the NAO had been approved the previous year.

However, leaked internal emails reported by Good Law Project have revealed the true number is higher still.

Good Law Project said the documents reveal that a total of 68 firms were awarded contracts through the unlawful VIP lane.

The 18 which had been “held back” by the UK Government accounted for a total of £984 million.

In total, the UK Government awarded £4.9bn in PPE contracts through the unlawful VIP lane.

Labour peer and Good Law Project board member Stewart Wood wrote: “In November the Government was forced to publish what they said was the full list of 50 companies who got VIP lane contract treatment.

“But it seems there are at least 18 further companies, who together got a further £984 million in PPE contracts.

“Why were these names held back?”

The National:

The Good Law Project has published the names of the 18 firms which had not been revealed until now.

Two firms on the list, China Meheco Co. Ltd and Winner Medical, have both been linked to Uighur human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

A third, Beijing Union Glory Investment Co. Ltd, was handed a £96m contract despite being run out of a hotel room in the Chinese capital.

In its report, the NAO said "47 out of 493" firms recommended through the VIP lane had won contracts. It is unclear if the 493 number should also be higher. 

Reports in the BylineTimes in March 2021 revealed that almost £1bn of public funds had been handed to firms with directors or majority shareholders who had donated to the Conservative Party.