A GOVERNMENT minister who represents North Hampshire was donated office space by an outsourcing giant which was paid £50 million a month to run the government’s test-and-trace programme.

Ranil Jayawardena is one of 12 MPs to have benefited from links to private health firms, after he was donated additional office space by the Hook-based firm Serco.

The most recent parliamentary Register of Members’ Interests shows that several MPs in north Hampshire have accepted gifts or donations from organisations in the past year.

A Gazette investigation has shown that one MP accepted tickets to sporting and music events worth hundreds of pounds, while another was given office accommodation worth almost £19k for staff.

Additionally, Basingstoke’s council leader was wined and dined by two property developers at last month’s Conservative party conference, including by one who has donated more than £500,000 to his party in the last three years.

The gifts were legitimately accepted and declared under parliamentary and BDBC’s rules.

Since April 2020, the basic pay for an MP has been £81,932 per year. On top of this, MPs are allowed to make expense claims for their commute between parliament and their constituency. They also receive heavily discounted food and drink at Parliament, subsidised by public money.

Our investigation looks at what extra gifts and donations MPs for north Hampshire have accepted in the last year. 

In the first of a series of articles, we look at North East Hampshire MP Ranil Jayawardena. 

The Register of Members’ Financial Interests as of October 18 shows that Mr Jayawardena, the minister for international trade, accepted a donation worth £18,999.96 from Serco, which runs large parts of the UK’s privatised test-and-trace service.

Mr Jayawardena accepted additional office space provided by Serco, based in Bartley Way, Hook, for his constituency staff, with a value of £1,583.33 per month, valued at £18,999.96 annually.

The MP accepted the donation on August 1 this year, and it will run to July 31, 2022.

On the register he described the donation as: “Additional office space provided by a local business for my constituency staff.”

Mr Jayawardena, who was first elected in 2015, was approached for comment but did not respond before The Gazette went to print.

Last year, this newspaper reported how he was paid the equivalent of £40,000 for eight days of consulting work at a private health care firm.

In the time before he was appointed to the government, he made the money in share options whilst consulting for the private sector drugs company PepTcell Ltd.

Speaking to The Gazette at the time, a spokesperson for Mr Jayawardena’s office said: “Mr Jayawardena complies fully with the Ministerial Code.

“Quite properly, the Register of Members’ Interests details his past business involvement, and this was scrutinised fully by the Cabinet Office on Mr Jayawardena’s appointment as a Minister.

“Our focus remains serving local people at this difficult time.”

Serco was outsourced to run parts of the government’s Covid-19 test-and-trace service in October 2020, with the contract due to expire on November 30.

It has been reported that Serco is paid almost £50 million a month by the Deparment for Health to run the test-and-trace scheme.

The firm is also responsible for the much-debated waste collection contract in Basingstoke and Hart, and last year The Gazette revealed that Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council gave Serco a £5 million interest-free loan to buy 44 rubbish trucks to fulfill the contract.

Cllr Andrew McCormick, leader of the Basingstoke Labour group, said he was concerned by the latest news.

Speaking to the Gazette, he said: “It is cause for concern when we have firms like Serco running contracts who have donated to pay for MPs’ offices.”

He called for a public inquiry into how Covid-19 has been handled by the government, including the test-and-trace programme, and added: “If it’s found that MPs have made decisions based on who is paying for their office space, then they need to be held to account.”

Mr Jayawardena was on a list of 12 MPs reported in the national media to have benefited from private health firms.

Health secretary Sajid Javid was reported to hold share options in a California tech firm that provides artificial intelligence software to the health sector.

The register also shows that Mr Jayawardena has employed his wife, Alison Jayawardena, as a part-time senior researcher since June 2016.