A LIFESTYLE company received a £25.8 million PPE contract after the new Conservative chair Greg Hands referred the firm to officials in 2020, new documents have suggested.

It is reported that Luxe Lifestyle – which is not believed to have a history of supplying PPE prior to the referral – was referred through the Government’s so-called VIP lane after Hands was approached by a Tory activist named Mark Higton.

Higton, who was a former chair of a Conservative constituency association, was listed as a point of contact on the “Minister Hands/Luxe Lifestyle” contract, documents obtained by the Good Law Project show.

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An internal audit prepared for the Cabinet Office in 2020 stated that the firm had been referred by an MP.

Luxe Lifestyle says it trades in “specialised design activities”, and had no published accounts at the time of the referral, according to The Guardian.

A freedom of information request later found that nine million items delivered as part of the contract were not used, however Luxe Lifestyle considered its PPE to be in a usable condition and was not told of problems with the PPE order.

A spokesperson for the company said: “Luxe Lifestyle’s contract to supply PPE was negotiated on an arm-length basis through MoD procurement officers, seconded to the DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care]. The company was awarded a single contract for two out of six products offered via a competitive process based on price and availability.

“No minister was ever directly contacted by the company and all products offered were uploaded on to the relevant DSHC PPE procurement website established by the Government at the time of the pandemic for review and assessment alongside other PPE providers. No one at the company has ever contacted or spoken to Greg Hands.”

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A spokesperson for the new Tory party chair Hands said: “Minister Hands forwarded a message from someone who contacted him to the relevant officials. Minister Hands had no further role or involvement in the process, and was unaware of any outcome.”

A UK Government spokesperson added: “Ministers had no involvement in any procurement decisions. During the pandemic, potential suppliers often passed on offers of PPE to MPs, civil servants and ministers. These offers for support were passed to procurement teams for assessment.”

It comes amid a wider focus on the Government’s use of a VIP lane during the pandemic. According to a National Audit Office report into the system, firms referred through the lane saw a success rate for being awarded contracts 10 times better than companies which were not referred.

The National:

While usual procurement systems were suspended due to the Covid crisis, the UK Government says it used the same criteria to assess all bids regardless of how they were referred, and all companies had to go through the same checks and clearances.

Last year, the High Court found the use of the VIP lane to be unlawful following a legal challenge by the Good Law Project.

Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project said: “The prime minister can smile sweetly and talk about integrity until the cows come home. But facts speak louder than words and the facts here are very grim indeed.”