YESTERDAY (April 21), Sir Simon MacDonald, top Foreign Office civil servant and Head of the Diplomatic Service appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and told MPs one story which he then reversed several hours later.
Under question from the committee about the fact that Britain did not enrol in the EU coronavirus schemes for ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) he stated “It was a political decision. Brussels briefed ministers about what was available, what was on offer, and the decision is known.”
This came as something of a surprise as originally, the government had said that they could not join because Britain was no longer part of the European Union and then changed the story to say that an email had gone to the wrong address and had been missed.
In his Downing Street briefing later that same day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock denied the claim, saying “As far as I’m aware there was no political decision not to participate in that scheme.”
The Health Secretary then revealed that the UK had already joined the EU’s procurement scheme and that no PPE has been delivered through it yet.
Following this statement, yesterday evening, Sir Simon decided to change his mind and said that he had actually got his facts wrong and that the reason for non-participation was due to an initial “communication problem”.
Labour backbencher Chris Bryant MP who sits on the Select Committee commented on the U-Turn to Sky News “it’s all nonsense – he’s been leant on. The whole thing stinks of people trying to cover their tracks.”