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Tory MP Liam Fox denies helping Covid testing firm land £500m deal

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The Tory MP who received a large donation from a Covid-19 testing company has denied claims he helped the firm secure a £500million government contract.

Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset, received a £20,000 donation earlier this year from testing company SureScreen.

According to an email seen by Sky News, dated June 22, 2020, Dr Fox emailed Health Secretary Matt Hancock to say the company had ‘performed extremely well in trials conducted internationally’ before asking if Public Health England would consider the company.

SureScreen Diagnostics would subsequently be awarded a £500m testing contract by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The £20,000 donation to Dr Fox, a former Defense Secretary, is on the MPs Register of Interests and was recorded as having been received in June 2022.

It’s unclear if anything resulted directly from Dr. Fox’s email, but several months later SureScreen was awarded a contract for a different type of antigen test.

A spokesperson for North Somerset MP Dr Fox said: ‘This is baseless libel concocted by political activist Jolyon Maugham and the Good Law Project. It is appalling that this is broadcast by the BBC.

“Dr Fox will make a formal complaint to the BBC and seek legal advice on this.”

Mr Maugham is the executive director of The Good Law Project, which has sued the government over its use of emergency powers during the pandemic to secure contracts without opening them up to competition.

In a statement to the BBC, SureScreen said: “The donation to Dr Fox’s office – not Dr Fox personally – was made by one of the firm’s directors. This donation was specifically intended to support a series of events including educational talks from expert guests.

“The payment is in no way related to lobbying.”

Mr Hancock denied any suggestion of wrongdoing.

A spokesman for Mr Hancock said: ‘All DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) contracts are decided, priced and signed by the civil service, which is independent of Mr Hancock.

“If Mr Hancock had received an email regarding the extension of testing, he would of course have acted on it, whatever the source.

“Not to do so would have been totally irresponsible. Remember: what was happening at the time was a nationwide effort to expand testing, and it all reveals people working together to save lives.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “All test suppliers – including SureScreen Diagnostics – were assessed before contracts were awarded, in accordance with strict procurement regulations and guidelines of transparency.

“The tests provided by the UK government also underwent a rigorous scientific evaluation process before distribution to ensure they were highly effective in detecting Covid-19.”