Government ‘rife with corruption’ as court rules handing contracts to companies with political connections was unlawful

The government's controversial use of a 'VIP lane' for awarding two PPE contracts has been ruled unlawful by the High Court.

Matt Hancock at a Covid press conference

The government’s controversial use of a ‘VIP lane’ for awarding two PPE contracts has been ruled unlawful by the High Court.

The ‘VIP lane’ saw companies fast-tracked for consideration in lucrative contracts at the start of the pandemic if they were referred by MPs, ministers and government officials.

The two contracts the High Court ruled on were with Ayanda Capital and Pestfix. Both companies were given multi-million pound contracts to deliver PPE.

Both of these companies’ involvement in the Covid response has already come under significant scrutiny. It was earlier revealed that Ayanda Capital had supplied 50m masks which could not be used by the NHS as part of its £250m contract. Similarly, Pestfix’s more than £300m contract initially led to the delivery of the wrong type of mask.

Today’s ruling is a result of legal action from the Good Law Project and campaign group Every Doctor. Although the High Court deemed the awarding of the two contracts unlawful, the Judge also deemed it ‘very likely’ that the companies would have still received contracts were they not awarded through the VIP lane.

Following the ruling, the Good Law Project tweeted, “This judgment today makes it clear, to this government and future governments, that setting up secretive back channels for friends and acquaintances to make use of is unlawful.”

Anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It said the ruling shows that the government is ‘rife with corruption’. The group’s director Cat Hobbs said, “Today’s court ruling is welcome, and it confirms what we have known throughout the pandemic – that this government is rife with corruption.

“The government’s ‘jobs for the boys’ approach to procurement throughout the pandemic has been an absolute scandal, but this isn’t just an issue of illegality and corruption, it is a consequence of outsourcing and privatisation.

“As our report (Privatised and Unprepared) shows, The NHS Supply Chain, responsible for procuring and delivering PPE during the coronavirus crisis, has itself been privatised.”

Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Carla Denyer welcomed the ruling and said the government had ‘put lives at risk’ through the awarding of Covid contracts. She said, “This is a tremendously important ruling. When Conservative ministers dodgily chose to give contracts to their mates rather than getting best value for the country and the NHS, they not only wasted taxpayers’ money, their actions also put lives at risk. 

“Government ministers are not above the law, despite what they seem to believe. We now need constitutional reform to prevent the abuse of power that Conservatives have indulged in happening in the first place.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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