Email leak reveals Amazon and outsourcing giant Serco are invited to apply for gongs in New Year honours
- Businesses have been invited to put their staff forward for New Year honours
- Capita, Amazon and Serco among others to receive invitation from Government
- Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy behind the invites
- Labour described the Government data leak as ‘unbelievable’ amid NHS pay rise
Amazon and test and trace contractor Serco have been invited to put their staff forward for New Year honours, it was revealed last night.
The businesses – which have been accused of profiting from the pandemic – were named in a government data leak.
Others said to have received the invitation from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) were Capita, BlackRock and consultancy giants McKinsey, PWC and Deloitte.
Labour described the leak as ‘unbelievable’ for inviting companies that have benefited from the virus chaos to apply for awards while refusing NHS workers a pay rise above one per cent.
Workers wearing high-vis jackets with SERCO and NHS Test and Trace logos on at a drive-in coronavirus testing centre in Chessington on October 20
It will come as an embarrassment to ministers who are considering taxing the profits of online giants such as Amazon whose sales have surged through the pandemic.
It will also come as a surprise that any staff at Serco – which was responsible for the shambolic test and trace system – are being considered for any honours.
Sources confirmed the leak after it was reported that Rupert Soames, the chief executive of outsourcing giant Serco, was among those to have received the email.
Boss who’s paid £5m
Serco boss Rupert Soames has bagged almost £5million in annual pay, newly published accounts show.
The firm’s chief executive, 61, received £4.9million during 2020 — down from £5.2million in 2019.
His package included an £850,000 salary, £191,250 in pension contributions, £53,255 in benefits such as healthcare and bonuses worth £3.8million.
Serco boss Rupert Soames (pictured)
Serco has faced criticism for its role in NHS Test and Trace, which took months to become effective after it was launched in May to tackle the Covid pandemic.
The firm runs about a quarter of testing centres and half of contact tracing operations, with contracts worth about £350million.
Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, called Mr Soames’ pay package ‘excessive’.
He said it was ‘symptomatic of what’s wrong with outsourcing’ which also saw ‘low-paid workers lose the rights, pay and protections of public sector employees’.
Serco’s annual report said the bonus awarded to Mr Soames, left, was ‘a true and fair reflection of the underlying performance of the company and the executive directors throughout what has been an incredibly challen-ging year’.
The request from BEIS permanent secretary Sarah Munby said: ‘I would like to invite you to submit honours nominations on behalf of your organisation as well as for any other individuals you think worthy of recognition.’
It was reported that personal contact details of business bosses and union leaders were included in the email accidentally copied to them all yesterday morning.
The email addresses of leading union bosses were also included in the blunder, in what appears to be a major breach of data protection rules.
Royal Mail bosses, banking giants, rail and energy chiefs and the Post Office were also asked to come forward with names.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which can investigate data breaches, said it had not yet received a complaint over the leak. Other recipients of the email, who were also invited to join classes on ‘how to master and award honours nomination’, were said to include vaccine producers AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
It was sent after MPs on the parliamentary spending watchdog criticised the running of the test and trace scheme. The influential public accounts committee said there is ‘no clear evidence’ the £22billion scheme contributed to a reduction in coronavirus infection levels.
Yesterday, Labour MP Rachel Reeves described the contents of the email as ‘unbelievable’. ‘The Conservatives’ priorities – a pay cut for our nurses and a gong for Serco. The mask is slipping,’ she said.
An Information Commissioner’s Office spokesman said: ‘Organisations must notify the ICO within 72 hours of becoming aware of a personal data breach unless it does not pose a risk to people’s rights and freedoms. If an organisation decides that a breach doesn’t need to be reported they should keep their own record of it, and be able to explain why it wasn’t reported if necessary.’
A spokesman for the Department for Business said: ‘As part of the New Year’s honours process, we work with a wide range of business groups and other stakeholders to encourage an ever-increasingly wide and diverse spread of nominations.
‘But to be clear, these emails do not indicate that any specific individual is being actively considered for New Year’s honours and any nominations received still need to go through a comprehensive, independent consideration process.
‘BEIS takes its information and data handling responsibilities very seriously. We have contacted the parties concerned to apologise for the error and taken steps to mitigate any further incidents.’