A CONSERVATIVE peer who advised the Government during the coronavirus pandemic helped a company secure PPE contracts worth £50 million after he was introduced to the firm by a fellow Tory peer.

Andrew Feldman, a former Conservative party chair, referred the company SG Recruitment to the “VIP lane” which gave priority to firms which were politically connected following the introduction by Lord Chadlington, a Tory peer for 26 years.

Chadlington, whose name is Peter Selwyn Gummer, was a director and shareholder of its parent company, Summer Group Holdings, which is registered in Jersey.

Documents seen by The Guardian through the Freedom of Information Act have shed new light on how SG Recruitment was awarded the £50m government contracts.

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Lord Feldman was involved with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in an unpaid advisory role during the pandemic’s early stages.

He worked on the effort to fill the low national stocks of PPE.

His referral of the company to the “VIP lane” came after an initial phone call on April 20 2020 from the company’s chief executive and ultimate owner David Sumner, a healthcare entrepreneur based in the United Arab Emirates.

He mentioned on the call that Chadlington had provided him with Feldman’s email address.

Sumner then followed up his phone call by sending Feldman an email the next morning, at 5.10am, which included an offer to supply PPE from “our manufacturer network” based in China, and attaching a price list.

His letter noted: “Lord Chadlington currently sits on the board of [the parent company] SGH Global.”

Two hours later, shortly before 7.30am, Feldman forwarded Sumner’s email to civil servants working at the DHSC and the department’s “Covid PPE priority appraisals mailbox”.

Feldman told officials in the email: “An interesting offer from David Sumner who was introduced to me by Lord Chadlington.”

DHSC officials then processed the offer as a VIP high-priority case. Companies referred to the lane, which was operated for recommendations from MP, peers and those with political connections, had a 10 times greater success rate for being awarded contracts than those without VIP treatment, according to a report by the National Audit Office.

Within five days of Feldman forwarding Sumner’s offer to officials, SG Recruitment was given a government contract worth £23.9m on April 26 2020 to supply coveralls.

The second contract, worth £26.1m to supply hand sanitiser, was awarded on May 28 2020.

The Guardian reports that both were awarded without inviting competitive bids from other companies, with the Government having suspended normal procurement rules due to the pandemic emergency.

Before the pandemic SG Recruitment was a small UK-registered subsidiary company with five staff, primarily involved in recruiting nurses for the NHS from countries overseas such as the Philippines and India.

The company also sought to fill vacancies for nurses and domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Malaysia.

In its financial accounts for the year prior to being awarded the PPE contracts by the DHSC, SG Recruitment turned over less than £500,000 and made a loss of £700,000.

The financial accounts for the year covering the contract awards appear to show that SG Recruitment, which has since been renamed Sumner Group Health Ltd, turned the previous year’s loss into a £1.1m profit.

Sumner declined to tell The Guardian by how much the company had profited from the contracts.

Feldman has said his role at the DHSC was to help find healthcare supplies and equipment during a period of national crisis.

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A spokesperson for the peer said of his phone call with Sumner: “Andrew’s recollection is that during this call, David Sumner introduced himself, informed Andrew Feldman that he had been given his departmental email address by Peter Chadlington, and said that he was going to send him an email in relation to PPE provision.

“This was the first time Andrew had ever spoken to David Sumner and he has never met him.”

Feldman himself added: “The full extent of the introduction from Peter Chadlington was that he provided David Sumner with my DHSC email address.

“My only action in relation to the email from David Sumner was to forward it on to the civil servants whose details he had been given for that purpose. After that I had no further involvement in this matter.”

In November of last year, after the DHSC was forced by the information commissioner to publish a list of companies awarded PPE contracts via the VIP lane and who had referred them, SG Recruitment was confirmed as one of 51 companies on the list.

The Government stated that the referrals were made by Chadlington and Feldman.

Chadlington is a longstanding donor and supporter of the Conservative Party and has founded two large public relations companies during his career.

He was appointed a Conservative member of the Lords in 1996. In July last year, he was cleared of lobbying for the PPE contracts by the House of Lords commissioner for standards, who investigates whether peers have broken the upper house’s code of conduct.

The watchdog explained: “There is no evidence to suggest the fact that Lord Chadlington provided Mr Sumner with the email address played any part in the decision to award the two contracts to SG Recruitment UK.”

Chadlington said he had not referred SG Recruitment to the government to be included in the VIP lane, nor had he lobbied for the firm.

He said his sole involvement was to give Feldman’s official email address to Sumner.

He said: “During a global pandemic when the UK was facing a crisis in the provision of PPE to save the lives of its citizens, the secretary of state publicly called for help.

“I was then chairman of a holding company which, through a subsidiary, had expertise in healthcare and I suggested that this company might be of assistance.

“After making the introduction I left the negotiation to the executive team to take matters forward.”

Both the DHSC and Sumner declined to comment when asked if there was a dispute over whether SG Recruitment had delivered the material as ordered, citing commercial confidentiality.

Sumner said: “The goods supplied were fir for purpose and now all certificates required have been provided.”

A DHSC source said of the VIP lane: “Offers of support through the high-priority list were subject to the same rigorous checks and robust assurance processes as all other procurement routes and ministers did not and do not have any role in awarding contracts.”