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Challenging government contracts awarded without competition and ‘discriminatory’ public appointments – update on our work with Good Law Project

We’re instructed by the campaigning organisation Good Law Project in several cases challenging decisions by the government to award high-value contracts without competition, and a case alleging discrimination in the government’s appointment of key figures to public posts during the pandemic.

Good Law Project succeeded in its challenge to the government’s decision to award a high-value contract to the lobbying firm Public First, without any competition, on 9 June 2021. The High Court declared that the decision to award the contract to Public First – at a total cost of £564,394 – gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful. The government’s appeal will take place on 25 November 2021 and we expect judgment in the following months. A second case, challenging the award of a contract for public opinion polling without competition, worth £900,000, will be heard following the outcome of the appeal.

A six-day hearing took place in May 2020 in which Good Law Project and our client EveryDoctor challenged the government’s decision to award PPE contracts of over £700million without any ordinary competitive procurement process, including the government’s use of a ‘High Priority Lane’ established solely for the purpose of prioritising referrals from government officials, ministers’ offices and MPs. The High Court’s judgment is awaited.
A final hearing will take place in May 2022 in Good Law Project to challenge the award of contracts to Abingdon Health for the manufacture and supply of rapid Covid-19 antibody tests, worth up to £87.5million, without competition; following a failure to obtain the necessary approval for home-use, the contract was cancelled. In a series of interim hearings the High Court ordered the Government to search Matt Hancock’s personal emails and WhatsApp messages, and for former Health Minister Lord Bethell to file evidence about his mobile phone, which was used to conduct government business with Abingdon Health.

A final hearing will take place on 14 and 15 December 2021 in a judicial review brought by Good Law Project and our client Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading Race Equality think tank. The case alleges that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted unlawfully when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, without conducting any open or fair competition. The case argues that the appointments were discriminatory as they disadvantaged those from more diverse backgrounds.

Find out more about the ground-breaking work of Good Law Project and support their work here.

November 2021

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