Minister says ‘thank you & goodbye’ over Covid-19 row — Analysis
Conservative minister Lord Theodore Agnew quit suddenly on Monday, citing the government’s “lamentable” handling of Covid-19 loan fraud
Lord Theodore Agnew was the UK’s minister for efficiency, transformation and the Treasury since February last year. He resigned Monday in the House of Lords. Agnew made a series of criticisms against certain departments and announced, “thank you and goodbye,”To receive applause outside the house
The peer’s decision was spurred on by what he claims is the lack of action by government departments on combating fraudulent Covid-related loans. Agnew had been tasked with heading the efforts to combat Covid loan fraud, but said on Monday that he cannot defend the government’s “lamentable track record”This issue.
“Given that I am the minister for counter fraud, it would be somewhat dishonest to stay on in that role if I am incapable of doing it properly,”He stated. “It is for this reason that I have sadly decided to tender my resignation as a minister across the Treasury and Cabinet Office with immediate effect.”
The government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) supported over one million businesses with more than £47 billion (over $63bn) in payments during the pandemic in an effort to offset losses caused by shutdowns.
“The oversight by both [Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] and the British Business Bank of the panel lenders of BBLS has been nothing less than woeful,”Agnew stated. “They have been ably assisted by the Treasury, who appear to have no knowledge or interest in the consequences of fraud to our economy or society.”
Covid testing for UK travelers
Officials have predicted there could be as much as £20 billion (nearly $27bn) in losses from Covid loan schemes due to business defaults or fraud, the majority of it relating back to BBLS.
In his resignation letter to Boris Johnson, Agnew said his resignation was “not an attack on the prime minister” and was not related to any other controversies connected to the Tory leader. Instead, the criticisms made by the former minister were directed at Whitehall bureaucrats.
“It has certainly not been through want of trying, but the government machine has been almost impregnable to my endless exhortations,”Agnew revealed that only two fraud officers were employed at the start of the pandemic and neither had any experience in this area. He also alleged there was a refusal to cooperate with the Cabinet Office’s team engaged in counter fraud. The government was “desperately inadequate”Agnew also added that Agnew was involved in handling pandemic loan fraud and the management of their attempts to avoid it.