Stroud Conservative MP Siobhan Baillie has refuted claims made by the Good Law Project that she helped former Conservative councillor Steve Dechan gain a £276m PPE contract.
They claim Ms Baillie referred at least three prospective PPE offers to the Cabinet Office between March and June 2020 – with one firm bluntly requesting ‘VIP’ access.
The Good Law Project stated P14 Medical, run by Stroud-based businessman Dechan were hit by further controversy when it was discovered the 120m face shields provided in a £120m deal with the DHSC struggled to gain HSE approval. Fewer than 1 in 400 had been used as of June 2021, meaning each face shield cost the equivalent of £423.
Following the claims, Ms Baillie now fears a social media backlash.
In a statement sent to Stroud Times, she said: “This organisation might self-style itself as the Good Law Project but I see little good in its work here and bad journalism that will mainly serve to deliberately create a torrent of misunderstanding and abuse at me on social media.
“There is a distortion of the truth that takes emails out of context, leaves out information that does not fit their agenda and adds in a dollop of assumption. It attempts to infer that I helped a local business, P14, when there is no evidence of this, and they know that.
“The Good Law Project appears to have spent months trawling my emails and correspondence with the government under the Freedom of Information Act to no avail.
“They say my office referred ‘at least three prospective PPE offers’ to the Cabinet Office.
“I have said before publicly that during the height of the pandemic, we forwarded local offers of help and suggestions. My office wrote to the Cabinet Office about one company. Its name is Wear and Care Ltd. and I thank the owners for allowing me to identify them. They will also confirm I have not met or spoken to them, and they did not receive any government contract.
“Even a quick look at the emails will show that any suggestion that I introduced this company or helped it, or gave it a ‘VIP lane’ is totally wrong. The company in question had already spoken to the Cabinet Office, and NHS and MoD procurement before it spoke to my office.
“The Good Law Project has the emails with that information, but they deliberately chose not to publish that part.
“With regards to the other two companies, one is not a company at all but a constituent who had a suggestion we might be able to buy PPE from Mauritius. They did not ask for help. The other is a constituent who does run a business but he made a suggestion about the pandemic. He did not ask for any help from me to obtain a contract for PPE or anything else.
What is so unpleasant about this story is that it is blindingly obvious in two emails that these people were not seeking PPE contract procurement.
“It should be noted that the correspondence was forwarded by my office to an established email address that is used by all MPs for constituency casework matters and is still used today. There was no special treatment, nor did I have a magic email address. You will recall that the country was desperate for PPE and the whole world was trying to source the same items, so MPs around the UK were inundated with emails about this. A system was set up to receive information. It was a very difficult time and my team and I followed the system.
“So, the story actually is that my office wrote one email (never mentioning VIP or a ‘VIP lane’) about one company that did not win a PPE contract and who had already introduced itself to the Cabinet Office, the NHS and the MOD. Then my office forwarded on two emails about PPE suggestions from a company and a constituent neither of whom wanted a PPE contract. Not such a good story after all is it?
“The final part of the Good Law Project’s erroneous piece against me is enlightening. They mention a local business, P14, that secured a PPE contract in a way that suggests I helped that business. This is all while the Good Law Project could see that the two redacted emails were not asking for PPE help and were obviously not connected to P14.
“Even after months of digging and a Freedom of Information application, there is nothing to connect me to the local business that they mention who succeeded with a PPE contract. For the record, as I have publicly stated many times before, I have never helped Steve Dechan of P14 to receive any government contract for PPE.
“This is pretty desperate stuff. I would like the media to ask who has funded this smear campaign towards me. I would encourage all media to ask for the redacted documents the Good Law Project is relying on for this ‘story’.
“The upshot is myself and my staff have now been diverted from our jobs helping constituents so we can deal with this. What a shame, what a waste of time.
“If this organisation has any decency, it will retract this story.”