Paterson-Randox call notes row

Government officials have been “unable to locate a formal note” of what was said during a call between a health minister, Randox and Owen Paterson, MPs have been told.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 7:47 am
Owen Paterson, the Parliamentary Committee on Standards had recommended the Conservative MP be suspended for 30 days over an "egregious case of paid advocacy" after investigating his lobbying for two companies he was a consultant for. Issue date:
Owen Paterson, the Parliamentary Committee on Standards had recommended the Conservative MP be suspended for 30 days over an "egregious case of paid advocacy" after investigating his lobbying for two companies he was a consultant for. Issue date:

A Labour motion seeking to force the government to release minutes of meetings between ministers, officials and the diagnostics company was approved unopposed, amid concerns over how nearly £600 million of Covid testing contracts were awarded to the firm.

NI firm Randox is the diagnostics company which employed Mr Paterson, the former Tory NI secretary who resigned as an MP during the Westminster sleaze row, as a consultant.

The meeting at the heart of Labour’s request took place on April 9 2020 and involved then-minister Lord Bethell, Randox and Mr Paterson.

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At Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson said he was “very happy to publish all the details of the Randox contracts, which have been investigated by the National Audit Office already”.

Health minister Gillian Keegan later echoed the government’s desire to review the information it holds and publish what is deemed “in scope” of Labour’s request, but prompted a furious reaction by disclosing the lack of a formal note related to the conference call.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner suggested the lack of minutes was in breach of the ministerial code.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Keegan told Liberal Democrat former minister Alistair Carmichael: “In terms of the minutes, I think we’ve said we will publish things here in the library.”

She later said: “We will review what information is held, that’s in scope, and we will come back to Parliament and deposit them in the libraries of the House. We will commit to do that.”

Pressed further by Labour MP Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) on the Randox meeting, Ms Keegan said: “The meeting he refers to was a courtesy call from the minister to Randox to discuss RNA extraction kits.

“That was declared on the ministerial register of calls and meetings, and we have been unable to locate a formal note of that meeting, but all the other notes that are available with regard to this – and that meeting, by the way, was after any contracts were let with Randox.”

Raising a point of order, Labour former minister Dame Angela Eagle said the minister had made “astonishing” revelations to MPs about there being “meetings with no minutes that are official, involve government minister, and she is unable to locate a copy of what is clearly a meeting that happened”.

Another Labour MP shouted: “Staggering.”

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he hoped the ministerial officials would look into this, adding: “I would expect that g overnment meetings that take place with people around would always be minuted.

“If not, I think it opens up another question and I don’t want that question to be opened up – I’d sooner for it to be answered.”