HEREFORDSHIRE MP Jesse Norman has spoken in detail for the first time about the controversy in which his wife – the Government's vaccines tsar Kate Bingham – has become embroiled.

Conservative Mr Norman, who represents Hereford and South Herefordshire, is dismayed by the criticism levelled at his wife.

He insists she has done nothing wrong, and her work in securing stocks of an effective Covid-19 vaccine for Britain deserves praise rather than condemnation.

"Lots of people in Herefordshire know Kate, and know she is as straight as an arrow, and an incredibly warm and positive life force," he said.

Ms Bingham, who is head of the Government's Vaccines Task Force, became the focus of intense scrutiny after a report appeared in The Sunday Times earlier this month.


It claimed she had shared commercially sensitive information with financiers at a conference in America.

Later it was reported that she spent £670,000 of public money on a public relations firm.

There were also claims of cronyism over how she came to be appointed in her role, and the public relations firm's ties with people close to the Government.

But Mr Norman, in a letter to Hereford Times readers, said all his wife's public appearances, including the conference that was the focus of The Sunday Times story, are approved by civil servants at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has oversight of her work.


Referring to the conference, the Government has already said: "Kate Bingham focused on publicly available information and said little that expert delegates at the conference could not deduce themselves."

Appearing before a parliamentary joint select committee on November 4, Ms Bingham herself denied any wrongdoing, and described The Sunday Times report as “nonsense”, “inaccurate” and “irresponsible”.

Mr Norman said what had been reported as "personal PR" spending actually went on additional communications work to keep people informed about the importance of vaccines at a time of great uncertainty.

In particular, that work helped recruit volunteers to the NHS Vaccines Trials Registry, which will help speed the testing of vaccines for Covid and other illnesses.

He said he had no role in his wife's appointment, and added: "Kate has been working around the clock leading the UK effort to source effective vaccines against Covid-19.

"She has earned nothing, and does not expect to earn anything, from her work as chair of the Vaccines Task Force.

"This is, and has always been, a short-term appointment, and it will end next month.

"Kate is a leader in the life sciences field and has worked in it for 30 years.

"To give just one example, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people alive today who can see because of a breakthrough technology to combat macular degeneration of the eye which one of Kate's teams developed."

Mr Norman said his wife had also played a key role in securing large and early supplies for the UK of the new Pfizer vaccine for Covid.

His praise was supported by Iain Foulkes, head of commercialisation for Cancer Research UK.

Speaking to the Financial Times, he said: "The vaccine task force and its leadership have transformed the UK’s ability to procure, manufacture and distribute vaccines.

“This work will be vital for ensuring an effective vaccine can be administered promptly and bring to an end this devastating pandemic, which is affecting patients, including those diagnosed with cancer, everywhere.”

Joseph Emmett, spokesman for Hereford and South Herefordshire Labour Party, said Ms Bingham's appointment to the task force and her connection to Mr Norman "reveals that the Government is making appointments without due process".

"As Labour Leader Keir Starmer has declared, the £670,000 PR bill of vaccine task force head Kate Bingham, cannot be justified at a time when people across the country are losing their incomes amid the coronavirus crisis," he added.