UK government broke law by awarding contract to firm with Cummings link
Michael Gove broke the law by giving a contract to a communications agency run by long time associates of his and Dominic Cummings, the High Court has ruled.
Lawyers for the Good Law Project accused Mr Cummings of wanting work to be given to a company run by his friends.
The court found that the decision to award the £560,000 contract to Public First was tainted by “apparent bias” and was unlawful. The court stated: “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.”
Mr Gove had claimed that the work was such that only Public First could carry it out. However, the High Court rejected that version of events. It held that the Cabinet Office failed to consider whether anyone else should have the contract.
Delivering her judgment, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said: “The fair-minded and informed observer would have appreciated that it was vital that the results and conclusions from the research were reliable and that Mr Cummings was uniquely placed, given his experience and expertise, to form a rapid view on which organisation might best be able to deliver those urgent requirements.
“However, the defendant’s failure to consider any other research agency, by reference to experience, expertise, availability or capacity, 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 claimant is entitled to a declaration that the decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful.”
Jo Maugham, director of Good Law Project, said the decision vindicated the group’s “long-running characterisation of pandemic procurement as ‘institutionalised cronyism’”.
Jason Coppel QC and Patrick Halliday of 11KBW Chambers – instructed by Rook Irwin Sweeney – appeared for Good Law Project.