Trade body defended vaccine tsar Kate Bingham without disclosing £500,000 contract

Ms Bingham was on the board of the BIA until 2011, and won the group's support following criticism

Kate Bingham

An industry group that received a £500,000 contract from the Government's vaccine taskforce failed to declare the contract when making a spirited defence of the taskforce's chairman following criticism last month.

The BioIndustry Association issued a statement on its website in support of Kate Bingham after she was criticised for sharing sensitive information with private companies.

The association described Ms Bingham as "uniquely qualified" to be chairman of the vaccine taskforce even though she was "not specifically a vaccines expert". Ms Bingham previously served on the board of the BIA until 2011.

However the trade body did not reveal that it had won a valuable contract with Ms Bingham's taskforce prior to issuing its statement.

The BIA was hired to provide advice to the taskforce for £500,000, with its contract beginning in late September. 

A source involved in the process told The Telegraph that the £500,000 figure had been decided by the Government. 

A source close to the BIA said a government press release from April mentioned the organisation assisting the Government, but this was before the contract started and did not mention any financial agreement between the two parties. 

The BIA is a non-profit organisation and there is no suggestion anyone associated with it profited from the arrangement. 

According to the contract, the BIA was the "only organisation" in the UK that could demonstrate it had the capability, skills and network to undertake the work. This was given as justification for not putting the contract out to tender. 

The Institute for Government's Nick Davies said: "Transparency rules exist to avoid instances of real or perceived impropriety. The Government should stick to them to maintain public trust." 

Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, said the body would have been willing to participate in any tendering process. “In the midst of a global pandemic our association would have been happy to go through any timely and appropriate process to ensure our industry were able to support the rapid development of a Covid vaccine,” he said.

“As a not-for-profit trade association, with the objective of the betterment of our sector, the BIA is incredibly proud to have shared its members' industrial capability, skills and network to help the UK design, build and manage solutions for the manufacturing and supply of vaccines to counteract Covid-19."

A government spokesman said: “We followed all public sector practices and frameworks when contracting this work. The UK Bioindustry Association works on a not-for-profit basis and is the leading trade body of its kind. Kate Bingham has not served on its board for nine years."

While the UK Bioindustry Association is a not-for-profit body, a source close to the group indicated that the contract was not being operated at book value.