Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said there was “communication confusion” after the Government missed the deadline to join an EU scheme to get extra ventilators.
It comes after the official spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this week said the UK had decided against joining the EU’s procurement scheme, as the UK is no longer a member of the EU.
However, a No 10 spokesman said that officials did not get emails inviting the UK to join, and it could opt in to future schemes.
It sparked calls from opposition MPs, including Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, that the Government is putting Brexit ideology over demand for essential equipment.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC, Mr Gove said: “There was some confusion over our involvement in that scheme.
“But I’ve talked to senior figures in the NHS and they’ve reassured me that there is nothing that we can’t do as an independent nation that being part of that scheme would have allowed us to do.”
Asked whether an email was received by the Government, he said: “There was some communication confusion, I don’t know all the details of that, but I do know having talked to senior figures in the NHS that there’s nothing that participating in that scheme would have allowed us to do that we have not been able to do ourselves.”
Mr Gove also issued an apology to a company which said it did not receive a reply from the Government, having offered to procure ventilators for the NHS.
An NHS supplier in Nantwich said that in the international market it had found 25,000 ventilators which it could have procured for the Government.
However, the supplier said that having asked the Government if it wanted the ventilators, it did not receive a reply.
Mr Gove said: “I’m very sorry if that company says that it didn’t get a reply, I’ll investigate as soon as I’ve stopped talking to you (Andrew Marr).
“It is the case that for companies that have got in touch with the Government, those offers of help have been forwarded to the relevant people in the NHS and in other aspects of Government, in order to make sure we secure those supplies.
“If that company wants to get in touch directly with me, we’ll investigate, because there have been some cases where people had hoped they might be able to help, but in fact the material that they produce has not met the NHS specifications, it’s not what’s required in order to save lives, but we have been following up every single lead presented to us.”