Legal action launched over Covid contracts

Legal action has been launched over the government’s failure to disclose details of its spending on contracts related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Three cross-party MPs and Good Law Project, a non-profit-making organisation, have filed a judicial review against the government for breaching the law and its own guidance and argue that there are mounting concerns over coronavirus procurement processes.

This follows revelations that the government has failed to account for £3 billion spent on private contracts since the start of lockdown.

Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams and Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran say that, despite the Department of Health and Social Care disclosing in September that at least £11 billion worth of contracts have been awarded by the department since April, related predominantly to coronavirus, fresh analysis by data analysts Tussell shows that over £3 billion worth of these contracts have not been made public.

Jolyon Maugham QC, director of Good Law Project, said: “What we know about the government’s procurement practices during this pandemic gives real cause for concern. Huge sums of public money have been awarded to companies with no discernible expertise. Sometimes the main qualification seems to be a political connection with key government figures.

“And I have seen evidence that government is sometimes paying more to buy the same product from those with political connections. We don’t know what else there is to discover because the government is deliberately keeping the public in the dark. We are left with no option but to push for transparency through the courts.”

Ellie Gellard, campaigns director of 38 Degrees, said: “The public needs to know where taxpayers’ money has been spent in our ongoing battle against coronavirus so that we can be sure those who have been paid, deliver what they promised. That’s why thousands of members of the public have chipped in to help get the answers we deserve, transparency is needed to restore public trust in the government’s approach.”