Dozens of Covid meetings with minister undeclared for 12 months in ‘admin error’

Dozens of Covid meetings with minister undeclared for 12 months in ‘admin error’
‘Lord Bethell must be sacked immediately and this racket must end now,’ says Angela Rayner

More than two dozen Covid meetings held by an under-fire government minister went undeclared for more than a year due what the government described as “administration error”, it has emerged.

Lord Bethell’s discussions with companies, including some awarded contracts worth millions of pounds during the pandemic response, were included in an update to the government’s transparency data yesterday.

The Mirror reported the updated records showed that 27 meetings held in the first week of April 2020 — at the height of the first wave of the UK’s Covid crisis— were not disclosed in a list publicly released last October.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) contado O Independente the failure to declare one weeks’ worth of meetings, included in an update to the records on Tuesday, were “due to an administrative error”.

“This has now been corrected with the full list of meetings, including those from 1 April-5 April, available to review in the usual way,” a spokesperson for the department said.

The revelation comes as the health minister faces calls to resign for his use of a personal email — rather than official communication channels — for government-related business.

Não 10 acknowledged Lord Bethell had use a private account, but also suggested that was allowed within the rules, while the peer insisted he had upheld the ministerial code “in everything I do”.

The health minister told peers this week: “In terms of the use of private email can I just reassure members that I have read the ministerial code, I have signed the ministerial code and I seek to uphold it in everything I do.

Responding to concerns raised with him in the upper chamber, the Tory frontbencher said: “I am absolutely rigorous to ensure that government business is conducted through the correct formal channels.”

Contracts were negotiated by officials, not ministers, and went viadepartmental digital boxes”, with decisions communicatedthrough secure governmental infrastructure”.

But Labour reiterated its call for a “full-scale” cross-government investigation into the use of private emails by ministers, which the party said must now include any undeclared meetings.

Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, insisted on Wednesday: “Lord Bethell must be sacked immediately and this racket must end now.

“Conservative ministers think that there is one rule for them and another for the rest of us, and the stench of sleaze coming from he government is overpowering”.

Ela adicionou: “Boris Johnson already showed that he lacks the qualities required of a prime minister by failing to sack Matt Hancock.

“We need a full and independent inquiry into the private emails and undeclared meetings across government that have seen taxpayers’ money handed out to Conservative cronies and the sleaze that is polluting our democracy”.

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