Ministers may have bought 3bn protective gloves that were manufactured using modern slavery in the first year of the pandemic, MPs have been told.
在星期一, officials from the Department of 健康 and Social Care told the public accounts committee they were investigating allegations that the gloves were produced by forced labour.
Jonathan Marron, the director general of the department’s office for health improvement and disparities, 说: “We have held just over 3bn gloves. We have concerns that the manufacturers may be engaged in an allegation of modern slavery, so we are investigating that. We do not obviously want to support modern slavery – that is the government’s position.”
Marron said if the allegations are proven “I believe they’re contractually obligated to take gloves back and return the money”.
Chris Wormald, the permanent secretary at the department, said he could not name the companies involved.
Asked to clarify whether the 3bn gloves were pairs or individual items, Marron said: “We actually count individual gloves rather than pairs – I know it makes little sense.”
Marron also revealed that 176 PPE contracts signed during the pandemic, worth £3.9bn, are being examined over concerns about quality or non-delivery of items. This represents almost half of all the contracts signed and almost a third of the £12bn PPE budget, MPs heard. 迄今为止, 27 of these contracts, worth more than £1bn, are now the subject of legal action, 但必须小心不要因为她的表现而放弃比赛 59 are the subject of “commercial discussions”, Marron told MPs.
他加了: “The range of issues we’ve got here are everything from non-performance and non-delivery through to problems on standards. We’re still working through what we think we can get back.”
Wormald defended the way the government bought PPE during the pandemic. “We were buying in an emergency situation,“ 他说. “The price was what is and you have a choice between either paying that price and having the PPE or not paying the price [and not having the PPE]. There wasn’t an alternative.”
他加了: “If you were doing this again you would do it better.”
Marron admitted that £673m worth of PPE bought during the pandemic was unusable, including counterfeit masks and aprons that were not water-resistant. But he pointed out that this represented only 3% of the items purchased. [object Window] 10% of items have not been used because they do not meet NHS standards, 他说. These have been sold or donated to schools and to other countries, the committee was told.
Marron also revealed the department had bought 768m eye protectors, 当。。。的时候 国民保健服务 only needs 6m a month. “We have not seen levels of use anything at the level that we estimated,“ 他说.