Paul Drayson

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Person.png Paul Drayson   PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Alma materAston University
SpouseElspeth Bellhouse
RelativesBrian Bellhouse

In 2005 the then UK prime minister Tony Blair placed in the Ministry of Defence the man who went on to become Lord David Sainsbury's successor as Minister of Science - Paul Drayson (created Lord Drayson in 2004), the former head of the BioIndustry Association [1].

Like the Sainsbury-Blair relationship, the Blair-Drayson relationship has been mired in allegations of corruption and cronyism. Both have given huge sums of money to Labour funds. Sainsbury gave Labour its biggest ever single donation in September 1997. Within a month he was made a life peer by Blair and a year later he was made Minister for Science. The former head of the Bioindustry Association, Paul Drayson, is also a Party donor and has also been given a peerage by Tony Blair in highly controversial circumstances that led to accusations that Blair was "compromising the peerage system".

The controversy began when Drayson, previously an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, made a substantial donation to Labour while the Ministry of Defence was deciding who should be awarded a smallpox vaccine contract. Drayson gave a further donation of half a million pounds to Labour just six weeks after the PM made him Lord Drayson.

Controversially, the Blair government - in what has been called a "cash-for-contracts" scandal - awarded Drayson's company, PowderJect, the smallpox vaccine contract without any competition (rival drug companies have claimed they were not allowed to bid for the contract[2]).

The Department of Health at first kept its deal with Drayson's company a secret, through claims of "national security"[3]. The contract was worth GBP32million and Drayson is thought to have made around GBP20m for PowderJect from this deal.

It later emerged that Drayson had been in a group of businessmen who had breakfasted with the Prime Minister in Downing Street at about the time Ministry of Defence (MoD) experts were meeting to decide what type of smallpox vaccine to buy. When the vaccine deal came to be finalised, officials discovered that Drayson had already made an exclusive deal with the manufacturer of the Lister smallpox vaccine, thus cornering the market in the vaccine the MoD had decided to buy.

Then Health Minister John Hutton responding to the question of why Powderjet had been awarded the contract claimed that 'they were the only company that was able to supply the vaccine that we required as soon as possible. That was the only consideration in our minds'[4]. This is despite the claim by the Department of Health that 'there was no credible immediate threat of an attack'[5].

It is also said that after meetings between Drayson's BioIndustry Association and a Treasury minister, Blair's then Chancellor (Gordon Brown) uncharacteristically approved a tax reform which would save Drayson's company an immediate GBP2m on its tax bill.[6]

After selling his company for a very considerable profit, Lord Drayson described himself as "a very successful guy through my own hard work".[7]

Drayson's company, while he still headed it, was a financial supporter of the pro-GM Science Media Centre - a pet project of Lord Sainsbury's. Powderject's support for the SMC dried up following Drayson's departure. Drayson has also served on a working party of the controversial pro-GM lobby-group Sense About Science [8]

The biotech industry must be delighted at Drayson's move into government. While Drayson was the head of the BioIndustry Association, it proposed sweeping new restrictions on the right to protest which would make it difficult to legally conduct a boycott or even protest against a corporation. It also can do no harm to have the former head of a lobby group whose motto is 'Promoting UK Biotechnology', joining first a ministry that hands out bio-defence contracts and then becoming Minister of Science.


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  1. Michael White, Blair defies critics in reshuffle: Promotions court controversy The Guardian, 10 May 2005, accessed 29 April 2009
  2. Boseley, S., Clark, A. & Maguire, K. (2002) 'Labour donor's firm gets pounds 32m vaccine contract'. The Guardian 13th April 2002.
  3. Boseley, S., Clark, A. & Maguire, K. (2002) 'Labour donor's firm gets pounds 32m vaccine contract'. The Guardian 13 April 2002.
  4. Boseley, S., Clark, A. & Maguire, K. (2002) 'Labour donor's firm gets pounds 32m vaccine contract'. The Guardian 13th April 2002.
  5. Foley, S. & Whitney, A. (2002) 'ORDER FOR SMALLPOX VACCINE GOES TO LABOUR DONOR'. The Independent. 13 April 2002
  6. "How a Thatcher Fan Became a Tony Crony and Made a Fortune", Daily Mail, June 30, 2004
  7. Nigel Morris, "Life peer gave Labour £505,000", The Independent, 25 August 2004, accessed February 2009.
  8. Sense About Science Website About US