A Tory donor’s firm that was paid £11million to deliver PPE is now getting £4.5million to incinerate it.
Clipper Logistics was founded by Ferrari-driving Steve Parkin who has a jet and a helicopter. He gave £730,000 to the Conservatives and remains a shareholder after selling Clipper. Gowns, goggles and surgical gloves will be incinerated.
Two years ago Clipper – one of the UK’s leading storage and delivery groups – received £11million of taxpayer cash to deliver PPE.
The arrangements have reignited claims of contract cronyism after it emerged Clipper’s founder Steve Parkin, 62, has handed £730,000 to the Conservatives since 2017.
Labour has hit out at “grubby deals” which have cost taxpayers a fortune.
Ferrari-loving tycoon Mr Parkin – a former coal miner who reportedly paid Robbie Williams £1million to perform at a private party – is one of the Tories’ biggest donors.
He is a horse breeder, has a private jet and helicopter and is in the “Leader’s Group” of VIPs who wine and dine top Tories. Mr Parkin once called controversial ex-PM Margaret Thatcher “one of my heroes... a genius”.
While there is no allegation of wrongdoing against Clipper or Mr Parkin, critics say the arrangement is further evidence of Covid contacts benefitting Tory backers.
More than £3.5billion-worth of Covid contracts were awarded to Tory donors and ministers’ mates, Labour claims.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “The Tories’ conveyor belt of sleaze and incompetence has come full circle. They handed millions to a donor’s firm with no experience of delivering PPE, then forked out millions more for the exact same firm to incinerate it.
“Taxpayers’ cash is going up in flames as the Government’s bonfire of useless PPE grows. Ministers must come clean about these grubby deals and explain how a Tory donor’s company came to be awarded millions on millions for this fiasco.”
The Tories spent £12billion on PPE during the first year of the pandemic. But £4billion of kit did not meet NHS standards or was simply so bad it was unusable.
Ministers are now dishing out lucrative deals to ditch the gear.
And taxpayers pay £1million a day to store 13billion excess items. Clipper won its £11million contract to distribute PPE in 2020. Terms were made public in 2021, when Labour demanded details of the “secret” contract.
Health ministers insisted there was no contract to publish as Clipper was sub-contracted to another company. By the end of 2020, Clipper claimed to have processed 7.4 billion PPE items. Its deal to dispose of PPE was signed last October, after Clipper was sold to US logistics giant GXO.
Mr Parkin ceased to be involved in the firm as part of the £964million sale. But he and other top bosses retained millions in shares.
Clipper was also awarded a £1.95million contract last April by the UK Health Security Agency for transport and storage services.
Senior Lib Dem Christine Jardine said: “The public deserves to know the full details of how this Conservative-affiliated company landed these contracts. We need clarity, not more cronyism and cover-ups. Conservative ministers wasted billions on dodgy PPE contracts and now are spending millions more destroying it. Another demonstration of how out of touch this government really is.”
Council estate-raised Mr Parkin left school at 16 with no qualifications and started work in the pits. He became an HGV driver before launching Clipper in 1992. He reportedly made £240million from shares after floating the company in 2014.
Despite his working-class roots, Mr Parkin has said: “I’ve always been a Tory even though I was brought up in a very humble background. I always believed in capitalism.”
The dad of four lives on a 300-acre estate near Harrogate, North Yorks, and has a stud farm with 100 horses. He calls his Ferrari F12 “my little toy”.
Mr Parkin reportedly hired former Take That singer Robbie to perform at his housewarming – after trying to land Bruce Springsteen and Prince.
He said in an interview last year: “The lake at my house was going to turn purple as he sang Purple Rain. We signed contracts. A few days later a friend rang me to tell me Prince had died. So we had to go on the third option – Robbie Williams. He called himself the sub of subs and he was absolutely amazing.”
Other parties at his estate have reportedly seen Sir Rod Stewart and Sir Elton John paid to perform.
Clipper processes orders for the likes of John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Asda and JD Sports. It came under fire from staff over alleged lack of social distancing in depots processing products such as fake eyelashes and boob tubes.
In July 2020 there was a Covid outbreak at Clipper’s Pretty Little Thing distribution centre in Sheffield – and a local lockdown followed soon after.
The company reported £37.9million profit in 2020-21. A GXO spokesperson said: “GXO is proud that Clipper, which it acquired in May 2022, supported Britain during the pandemic. We continue to be focused on working with our customers across the UK.”
Mr Parkin was approached for comment.
The Government said: “These contracts were awarded in line with procurement regulations and the details have been made public.
"We continue to sell, donate, repurpose and recycle excess PPE in the most cost-effective way, as well as seeking to recover costs from suppliers wherever possible to ensure taxpayer value for money.”
In December, the Good Law Project first reported on Clipper Logistics and its contract to destroy PPE. Read that report here.