House of CommonsPA
The government’s £12bn of PPE contracts were an “absolute, total disaster”, Dominic Cummings has told MPs.
Boris Johnson’s ex-adviser said the scramble to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) when Covid hit left the Department of Health and Social Care a “smoking ruin”.
As a result, the PM set up the vaccine taskforce as he believed Matt Hancock’s department could not be trusted to lead the jabs programme, Cummings claimed, in what will be seen as a clear attack on the health secretary.
The government’s PPE contracts have come under increasing criticism, with the National Audit Office saying firms with “no experience” were handed lucrative contracts despite having “no experience” of delivery.
The former Vote Leave boss, who left No.10 amid a Downing Street power struggle in December, also branded some EU states’ decision to pause the rollout of the Oxford AstraZenca jab “insane”.
Speaking to the Commons’ science and technology committee, Cummings, who attracted fierce criticism for his trip to Durham amid last year, also appeared to back an inquiry into Covid, saying parliament should take an “urgent, very, very hard look into what went wrong and why”.
Johnson has previously said that any public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pande should wait.
Directly contradicting Hancock’s recent claims that there was no shortage of PPE during the first wave, Cummings said: “I and others said repeatedly before 2020: ‘This system is an expensive disaster zone and when it hits a crisis it will completely fall over.’ That system hit a crisis, and it completely fell over.”
He said the government “had an absolute disaster in terms of buying – how it buys, procures, how it deals with science and technology”, adding: “In spring 2020 you had a situation where the Department for Health [sic] was just a smoking ruin in terms of procurement and PPE and all of that.”
He added: “It’s why we had to take the vaccines process out of the Department of Health [sic].”
Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance suggested the vaccine taskforce, said Cummings.
The former top adviser to Johnson also repeatedly hit out at “bureaucracy” within Whitehall.
He saved, perhaps unsurprisingly, his most stinging criticism for the EU.
It comes as several countries paused rollout of the Oxford AZ jab, citing safety concerns, despite the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stressing there was no indication the vaccine is linked to an increased risk of blood clots.
He told MPs: “As things are being proved every day now, scientists can cooperate globally without having to be part of the nightmarish Brussels system, which has blown up so disastrously over vaccines.
“Just this week we have seen what happens when you have an anti-science, anti-technology culture in Brussels married with its appalling bureaucracy in its insane decisions over warnings on the AZ vaccine.
“We are extremely well out of that system.”