The court found that Hancock broke the law after appointing Baroness Harding as Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection and Mike Coupe as Director of Testing.
In a landmark ruling, the High Court has today found that former health secretary Matt Hancock acted illegally in appointing Baroness Dido Harding and Mr Mike Coupe to top jobs in the national emergency response to the pandemic, without competition.
Ruling in favour of the claimants, the Runnymede Trust and the Good Law Project, the court found that Hancock broke the law after appointing Baroness Harding as Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection and Mike Coupe as Director of Testing.
Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Swift also made clear that the Prime Minister acted unlawfully by appointing Baroness Harding as Chair of Test and Trace.
The high court had been asked to rule on whether the government acted unlawfully with respect to the appointments of Harding, a Conservative peer, and Mike Coupe, formerly CEO of Sainsbury’s, to leading roles at NHS test and trace without competition.
The court heard how Harding intervened to add Coupe to a shortlist of candidates that had been created by the Department of Health and Social Care from candidates selected by an agency.
Arguments made by race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust and Good Law Project that the recruitment process adopted by the prime minister and the secretary of state, ignored the need to eliminate discrimination against the country’s disabled and ethnic minority communities, and to ensure they have equality of opportunity were accepted by the court.
Reacting to the judgement, the Runnymede Trust said in a statement that it ‘moved to join this Judicial Review at the peak of the pandemic when disabled, Black and minority ethnic citizens were dying disportionately from Covid’.
It added: “It seemed logical and indeed imperative that those appointed to help lead the nation out of the pandemic were the best candidates for the job or, at a bare minimum, extensively experienced and fully qualified in the area of public health.
“Neither Baroness Harding nor Mr Coupe is medically trained. Neither has a lifetime of public administration under their belt. It should not be acceptable to drop our standards during complex health emergencies when countless lives are at stake, in particular the lives of some of our country’s most vulnerable citizens. This is when the rule of law most needs to be upheld. This is why the rule of law exists.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward