Rishi Sunak lacked serious judgement on Covid crooks, says his former Treasury Minister in a scathing review of his time as chancellor

  • Lord Agnew said the next Prime Minister must fix Sunak’s ‘covid black hole’
  • As much as a tenth of the £376 billion Covid bill was squandered by Treasury
  • Was squandered to fraud, waste or loss- potentially costing each Brit £559
  • Included loans worth up to £17 billion granted under bounce-back loan scheme 

Rishi Sunak lacked serious judgment in allowing billions of pounds in taxpayer cash to be lost to fraud during the Covid pandemic, his former Treasury Minister has said.

Lord Agnew, who resigned in disgust at Rishi Sunak’s ‘spray and pay’ approach to coronavirus handouts, has said the next Prime Minister must urgently fix the Covid black hole he left behind.

As much as a tenth of the £376 billion Covid bill was squandered by the Treasury to fraud, waste or loss – potentially costing each Briton £559.

This included loans worth up to £17 billion granted under the bounce-back loan scheme which will never be repaid. Of this, £4 billion was lost to organised criminals, fraudsters and error, according to the latest estimates. Another £4 billion was expected to be lost to fraudsters from the furlough scheme and the Eat Out To Help Out restaurant subsidy.

Lord Agnew, pictured, who resigned in disgust at Rishi Sunak’s ‘spray and pay’ approach to coronavirus handouts, has said the next Prime Minister must urgently fix the Covid black hole he left behind

Last night Lord Agnew, former Minister of State for Efficiency and Transformation said he had concluded only Liz Truss could change the Treasury’s fortunes.

He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Our next Prime Minister must be willing to tackle this. To be able to wrestle the Government machine against entrenched internal resistance from officials and Ministers alike takes courage, ability, stamina and determination. Liz Truss has the talent and drive to do this. Not many Prime Ministers are elected to power with quite as much experience as she has – eight years in Cabinet, serving in six departments.’

He said that much of Mr Sunak’s Covid work, such as the furlough scheme, was a success, but added: ‘There is a serious error of judgment on Rishi’s record. This is unfolding as an anticipated £4 billion of money lost to fraud through Covid bounce-back loans.’

Lord Agnew said he quit because the Government seemed reluctant to claw it back. He added: ‘Billions of pounds of taxpayers’ hard-earned money had been dished out to companies who weren’t trading before the pandemic or who took funds for personal use. I seemed to be the only person in the Treasury who wanted to do anything about it.’ The peer said in February 2021 he asked Mr Sunak for more resources to counter fraud, but was turned down.

He said: ‘A combination of arrogance, indolence, and ignorance within the Treasury led to a frankly lamentable response.’

Speaking of Ms Truss, he added: ‘Under her premiership, we would not see the same wanton disregard for taxpayers’ money. She would give the Government’s efficiency agenda the backing needed. It is the huge prize that Rishi never bothered to collect.’

Last night, the Tory donor who hosted Boris and Carrie Johnson’s wedding party also backed Ms Truss. Lord Bamford, chairman of the construction firm JCB, said she would ‘reward British people for working hard’.

Last night, the Tory donor who hosted Boris and Carrie Johnson’s wedding party also backed Ms Truss. Lord Bamford, chairman of the construction firm JCB, said she would ‘reward British people for working hard’

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