Our PM is allergic to accountability
Three days after the High Court ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully by failing to publish Covid contracts, Boris Johnson stood up in the House of Commons and reassured MPs and the public that all Covid-related contracts were ‘on the record’.
However, the final order handed down by the judge on March 5 shows that this statement by the Prime Minister was not true.
The judge confirmed: “The defendant has published 608 out of 708 relevant contracts for supplies and services relating to Covid-19 awarded on or before October 7.
“In some or all of these cases, the defendant acted unlawfully by failing to publish the contracts within the period set out in the Crown Commercial Service’s Publication of Central Government Tenders and Contracts: Central Government Transparency Guidance Note (November 2017).”
The Good Law Project, which achieved a judicial review, points out that the judge’s order is based on the Government’s own figures – 100 contracts and dozens of contract award notices (CANs) were missing from the public record.
Over the course of the judicial review, the Government kept getting figures on the number of contracts and CANs that had been published late wrong – it was eventually shown that the Government had actually only published three per cent of CANs within the legal timeframe.
The Government has not only misled Parliament, it has misled the country. Unless contract details are published, they cannot be properly scrutinised – there’s no way of knowing where taxpayers’ money is going and why.
Billions of pounds have been spent on questionable contracts and huge sums wasted on PPE that wasn’t fit for purpose.
As the Good Law Project has pointed out, we have a government and a Prime Minister who show contempt of transparency and are apparently allergic to accountability. The very least that the public deserves is the truth.
Clarity needed on vaccine jab gaps
Having received my first jab of the Pfizer vaccine, I was interested to see a recent discussion on a TV news programme between two top scientists as to whether the gap between the first and second jabs should be up to 12 weeks – for both the AstroZeneca and the Pfizer vaccines.
Both scientists agreed that there is data to support this for the AstroZeneca product, but there was disagreement on the Pfizer one, where the manufacturer recommends a gap of three to four weeks.
One of the scientists considered, (and here I paraphrase), that from careful extrapolation, it is reasonable to apply the same time frame to both, and that there is no evidence of any erosion of performance from the Pfizer vaccine when the longer interval of up to 12 weeks between jabs is applied.
The other scientist disagreed, saying there was evidence from Israel, which indicated that such an extended gap between the first and second jabs for the Pfizer vaccine could produce a reduction in the level of protection from a potential 90/95 per cent to 50/60 per cent.
Disagreement between scientists is not unusual. It would, however, seem to be in the public interest for some evidence-based clarity to be made available.
The UK vaccination programme has been a remarkable success. However, given the massive investment involved, it is obviously important to optimise the performance of each of our various vaccines. Failure to do so would be akin to buying a winning lottery ticket, but not claiming the prize.
St John’s provides an essential service
Your article (March 12) on shortcomings at St John’s House was very concerning. I have been visiting patients there for 10 years in order to give them friendship and contact with someone who is neither a member of staff nor another patient. During this time I have never seen a member of staff restrain a patient unduly.
As reported, the main problem is the day to day shortage of staff and the lack of dedicated staff who treat the work as a long term career. I have nothing but praise for these dedicated staff, who make a career of caring for patients who can suddenly be very violent and abusive. Restraining patients in these circumstances is extremely difficult when the carer has to be as reasonable as possible to patients who don’t always understand the meaning of reason themselves.
Adequate funding and training are, of course, essential in these circumstances, but if there is a shortage of applicants to work at St John’s, problems are likely to persist. It is good to see that Priory Healthcare has addressed many of the reported issues and we should all hope that future inspections will be more positive.
St John’s provides an essential service for those who are sadly unable to live in the community, and by doing so it helps those of us who are so much more fortunate.
Long Green, Wortham
Government failing to take any action
In truth, MPs will not vote for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill because it would be a confession of incompetence.
The Government’s own Public Accounts Committee says ministers have “no plan” to meet climate change targets even after two years of setting them in law.
The Budget failed on any action to fast-track the switch to a low-carbon economy.
In light of this, I feel terrified for the wellbeing of future generations.
Bury St Edmunds