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Covid-19 contracts: Michael Gove broke the law!

The Good Law Project has succeeded in their second judicial review against the Government’s handing out of Covid-19 contracts.

The High Court gave judgment on the first judicial review back on 18 February 2021 and held that Matt Hancock had a common law duty to comply with the transparency policy absent good reason to depart from it. The Court found that Matt Hancock’s evidence for failing to comply with the policy amounted to an excuse, not a justification. He therefore acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the transparency policy. Matt Hancock admitted breaching the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, Regulation 50 which requires him to publish a contract award notice no later than 30 days after awarding a contract with a value over the applicable amount (procurement).

This time round Michael Gove was challenged on his decision to award a £560,000 contract to Public First, a communications agency, which just happens to be run by a long-time associate of Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings.

Judgement was handed down on 9 June 2021.

Michael Gove claimed the work involved with the contract could have only been carried out by Public First, but the High Court rejected this argument. The High Court held that the Cabinet Office failed to consider whether anyone else should have had the contract.

Emails shown during proceedings demonstrated that Michael Gove and the Government wanted Public First and (Hanbury*) to win no-tender polling contracts.

The High Court found that Michael Gove’s decision was tainted by “apparent bias” and was unlawful. Michael Gove’s “failure to consider any other research agency would lead a fair minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision maker was biased”.

*The Good Law Project are also commencing a judicial review on the decision to award a contract to Hanbury. The case will be heard on 26 July.

The Good law Project have now succeeded in two out of two judicial review proceedings against the Government for its unlawful handing out of Covid-19 contracts. Will it become three out of three, we shall have to wait and see.

It is important to note that the Good Law Project is funded by public donations. If you wish to support the Good Law Project with its legal challenges against the Government, then head on over to its website, goodlawproject.org.

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