Minister refuses to apologise over claim there was ‘no national PPE shortage’

A Tory minister has refused to apologise to NHS employees after claiming there was “no national PPE shortage” within the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cabinet Office Minister Edward Argar additionally claimed Covid contracts have been solely printed a median of 17 days late – after the Mirror revealed the true determine was a lot larger

Mr Argar repeated a claim first made by Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday, {that a} report by the National Audit Office had concluded there was “no national shortage” of PPE.

While the report did say the UK had not ‘run out’ of PPE, it went on to say many frontline workers had reported shortages, with some resorting to utilizing bin baggage as robes.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee stated: “It does not behove the minister well to come to this house and have backbenchers clearly briefed about a partial element of the National Audit Office’s report that is partial and inaccurate when taken in the round.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock first made the claim yesterday

And Shadow minister Rachel Reeves urged Mr Argar to apologise to NHS employees for the claim.

She informed the Commons: “Will the minister take this opportunity to apologise to the doctors, the nurses, the care workers and other frontline workers who did not have the PPE that they needed and had to make makeshift PPE because unlike what Matt Hancock has said, there was a shortage in PPE and those who were working on the front line were not protected.”

But Mr Argar remained defiant, saying he would make “no apologies” for the Government doing “everything in its power” to guarantee NHS and frontline employees didn’t run out of PPE.

He added: “I would remind the House and indeed (Ms Reeves) of the situation that we faced back in April – 3,301 people in mechanical ventilation beds, 21,307 people in hospital with Covid, and at the beginning of April according to our best understanding of positive cases at the time, the average number of positive cases and patients in hospital was doubling every seven days.

“In these circumstances, I make no apologies that the Government did every part in its energy to make sure the NHS and frontline employees didn’t run out of PPE and because the NAO has acknowledged, there was no national scarcity of PPE at the moment and all through this pandemic.”

Mr Argar additionally repeated a claim first made by Matt Hancock that Covid-19 contracts had been printed, on common, 17 days late – a timeframe Mr Hancock repeatedly referred to as “about a fortnight” over the weekend.

The Mirror revealed final night time that this determine solely consists of contracts which had been printed – and never these which have been nonetheless unpublished.

With these figures taken into consideration, the determine was 78 days by November – 48 days longer than the 30 day authorized restrict.

The High Court rapped the Health Secretary for unlawfully failing to publish contracts inside 30 days in a “substantial number of cases.”

But Mr Hancock stated he would breach the legislation once more if wanted.

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