Work demands answers on Conservative co-chair marketing private Covid tests – LabourList

Anneliese Dodds has written to the Conservative Party asking for responses to reports that Ben Elliot’s co-chairman Quintessentially’s company arranged for its clients to access private Covid testing during the height of the first wave last year.

According to Time, the company owned and run by the Conservative Party co-chair was marketing private testing last April when, Labor stressed, care homes were unable to access necessary tests for staff and residents.

Writing to Co-Chair Amanda Milling this morning, the Labor Party chairperson asked if other Conservative figures were aware of marketing, what conversation she had with Elliot about her business and any potential conflicts of interest, and what action she intended to take in light of the allegations.

“The public will be dismayed that the Conservative Party’s corporate co-chairman marketed the same tests the NHS used to his very wealthy clientele in April of last year – a time when even nursing homes weren’t able to to access the tests. a lot of their employees and residents needed it, ”Dodds said.

The government admitted on April 14 last year that only 505 social workers in the UK had been tested for the virus, and National Care Forum director Vic Rayner described testing modalities in nursing homes like “chaotic” next month.

All nursing home residents and staff, including those without symptoms, were made eligible for testing on April 28, but the Department of Health and Social Affairs imposed a daily cap of 30,000 tests per day in nursing homes.

Email exchanges with Quintessentially customers showed that its employees were offering PCR tests for £ 295 and antibody blood tests for £ 139, also suggesting they could “use the tests immediately this time or save money. for later”.

Dodds added: “We need to know who in the Conservative Party knew what Mr. Elliot was doing and what action they are going to take in light of these allegations.

“The daily revelations about Ben Elliot raise serious questions about the judgment of the Prime Minister in appointing him to his post and about the culture within the Conservative Party. There cannot be one rule for high conservatives and their cronies, and one rule for everyone. “

the Financial Time revealed last week that an exclusive group developed by Elliot known as the “Advisory Board” regularly held meetings and appeals to the Conservative Party’s most generous donors along with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak.

Labor called on the Tories to release the names of everyone who attended the meetings which a donor said were used by some members of the group to pressure ministers for cuts in government spending and taxes.

Elliot apologized to Tory MPs last year for hosting a fundraising dinner, where property developer Richard Desmond discussed his controversial Westferry project in east London with the Communities Secretary , Robert Jenrick.

The developer donated £ 12,000 to the Tories after his development of 1,524 houses was approved by the minister – against the wishes of local residents, the local council and the advice of the town’s planning inspector. government.

Elliot also faces other questions after telecommunications mogul Mohamed Amersi, a member of Quintessentially’s elite, said the businessman introduced him to Prince Charles after paying his company dozens thousands of pounds.

Amersi called the arrangement “access capitalism” last week. Elliot reportedly denied that the work was related to his role in the Conservative Party and insists he undertook the connection in order to raise money for charity.

Below is the full text of the letter sent to Milling this morning.

Dear Amandine,

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter and your thoughts on the issue of political party donations.

However, my concern is not about legitimate fundraising activities to support political party campaigns and cover staff costs.

These are allegations that your fellow co-chair appears to allow those who have made six-figure donations to the Conservative Party access to the most senior ministers in government – ministers with substantial control over the government. allocation of billions of pounds of public money. The difference between the two is very clear.

Other allegations against Ben Elliot have come to light since my last letter. On August 2, 2021, The Times reported that Quintessentially, the company Mr. Elliot continues to lead while co-chairing the Conservative Party, organized access to Covid-19 testing for its clients last April – a time when even homes healthcare providers were unable to access the tests that many of their staff and residents needed. The article quotes an email dated April 21, 2020, introducing Quintessentially clients to a private healthcare company. This email made it clear, presumably as a marketing tactic, that the tests being marketed were from the same labs that were testing for the NHS.

I’m sure you will remember the chaotic state of Covid testing overseen by disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock during the first months of the pandemic.

On March 17, 2020, hospitals were ordered to return all medically fit patients to leave in order to increase their capacity to care for people with acute health needs. The government belatedly began testing every patient discharged to nursing homes a month later (from April 15), after 25,000 people had already been released. We still don’t know how many of these people had Covid-19 and took it with them to care homes. Data released by the Care Quality Commission last month revealed that nearly 40,000 people died in nursing homes in England between April 10, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

Back then, our key worker heroes were in desperate need of access to testing as well. However, despite repeated promises at the start of the crisis to roll out testing for symptomatic NHS workers, it also only started on March 27. Eligibility was not extended to social workers with symptoms until the government announced its action plan for social care on April 15 – a day after the government was forced to admit that only 505 social workers across Britain had been tested for the virus. It was not until April 28 that all nursing home residents and staff, including those without symptoms, were made eligible for testing, and even then, nursing home testing was subject to a daily limit of 30,000 tests. On May 28, the director of the National Care Forum was quoted in the Guardian as saying that testing arrangements in nursing homes remained “chaotic”.

This goes beyond belief that in the midst of this national crisis, as our NHS and care homes demanded more Covid tests and the Conservative government did not provide them, Mr Elliot’s company was marketing the same tests to its list. of super rich customers – and highlighting their use in the NHS as a selling point. This is because these tests were offered to Quintessentially clients before they were even available to nursing home staff and symptom-free residents.

You will have regular meetings with Mr. Elliot in your capacity as co-chair of the Conservative Party. So can you explain:

  • What if you or any other senior official in your party knew that Mr Elliot’s company was marketing Covid tests to its customers amid a nationwide test shortage?
  • What discussions have you had with Mr. Elliot about his business interests and any potential conflicts of interest between them and his role as co-chair of the Conservative Party?
  • What action do you plan to take against Mr. Elliot in light of these latest allegations?

There are now daily revelations about Mr Elliot’s actions that raise serious questions about the culture within your Party and the judgment of the Prime Minister in appointing him to this post. He has already had to apologize for his role in the Robert Jenrick / Richard Desmond planning scandal. Will you also ask him to apologize again in light of these latest allegations?

Whether it’s crony deals, links to controversial developers, or money-for-access suggestions, the way Boris Johnson and senior members of the Conservative Party go about their business seems to be less of this. that’s fair and more what they can get away with. . A quick answer to my questions would help restore public confidence in your party’s commitment to good government.


Anneliese Dodds MP
Chairman of the Labor Party

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