Lawyers for a firm paid hundreds of millions of pounds for Covid-19 testing contracts have stepped up pressure on an influential Commons committee over a ‘misleading’ report.
The Public Accounts Committee has received a series of legal letters from Randox Laboratories attorneys, Schillings, about the contents of its report.
While some of the correspondence has been published, the PA News Agency understands that a further letter from Schillings suggests the PAC report was unreliable and had caused unwarranted harm to Randox.
The unedited letter was sent in November 2022, a month after PAC chair Dame Meg Hillier told lawyers she considered the matter closed.
The PAC report, released in July, said Randox had been awarded contracts worth nearly £777m for Covid-19 testing and services.
He was critical of the Department of Health and Social Care’s “poor record keeping”, which meant that “we can’t be sure that all these contracts have been awarded correctly”, although he acknowledged that the National Audit Office had found no evidence to suggest they were improperly assigned.
The PAC said Randox had struggled to deliver the expected level of testing capacity compared to its first contract, but Randox was still awarded a contract extension worth £328m.
He said the department didn’t do enough work to determine whether Randox was making excess profits from its contracts.
Correspondence published by the PAC shows that Schillings wrote to the committee when an embargoed version of the document was circulated to the media two days before its publication, stating that it contained “inaccurate” and “misleading” allegations and that Randox had been ” ambushed”. ” as he had not been given a “reasonable” opportunity to comment.
He also pointed out that the figure of around £777m provided by the PAC reflected the maximum possible value of the contracts, saying the real total paid to Randox was significantly lower, at £469m.
In her response to Schillings, dated Oct. 20, Dame Meg told the law firm that the report “cannot and should not be changed or withdrawn” and “I consider this matter closed.”
But the PA understands that a later, unpublished letter from Schillings, dated Nov. 16, said Dame Meg’s response included a number of acknowledgments that could question the reliability of the PA’s report.
When asked by the PA about the latest letter, a Randox spokesperson said: “Randox has never been asked to give evidence to the CAP or consulted on its findings.
“The company believes the public is still being misled by the release of its report.
“Contains serious and still incorrect misrepresentations about the award of Covid-19 contracts to the company and the subsequent conduct of the same.
“It also ignores the extraordinary and crucial role Randox played in saving lives and helping keep the economy running during the pandemic.
“We believe the misleading picture painted by the PAC report is in violation of natural justice to misrepresent Randox’s position.
“We therefore reiterate our request to Meg Hillier, as Chair of the PAC, to ensure the publication of the true facts on the committee’s website through the publication of our November 16 letter.”
The Public Accounts Committee has been contacted for a response.
Randox has been in the spotlight in Westminster after former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules by the Commons Standards watchdog, which ultimately resulted in his resignation from Parliament in November 2021.