U.K. Official Drops ‘Political Decision’ Claim Over EU Virus Kit

(Bloomberg) -- The most senior official in the U.K. Foreign Office reversed his testimony to the parliamentary committee hours after telling it that Britain missed out on a European Union-wide effort to procure medical supplies because of a “political decision.”

Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Simon McDonald had caused a storm by telling parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee that the reasons the government had given for not participating in an EU procurement program were incorrect. While the official version had been that the email inviting Britain to participate hadn’t been received, he said that in fact ministers had been informed of the opportunity.

Less than five hours later the committee chairman Tom Tugendhat released a letter from McDonald, blaming a “misunderstanding” and saying his evidence had been incorrect. “Ministers were not briefed by our mission in Brussels about the scheme and a political decision was not taken about whether or not to participate,” McDonald wrote. “The facts of the situation are as previously set out.”

The retraction is a relief for ministers already under fire over the delivery of protective equipment to medical staff in the front line of the fight against the virus. While the government insists it is doing all it can and that there is sufficient equipment, complaints of shortages continue to come in.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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