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UK government acted ‘illegally’ at start of Covid-19 pandemic, High Court ruling UK News

The High Court ruled that the UK government acted illegally in deciding to award a contract to a company whose bosses were friends of Boris Johnsons’ former chief adviser Dominic Cummings.

Ministers denied any favoritism towards communications agency Public First, when it won a contract worth £ 560,000.

Campaigners have taken legal action against the Cabinet Office over the decision to pay more than £ 500,000 in taxpayer money to market research firm Public First, after the coronavirus crisis began in March 2020 , and questioned Mr. Cummings’ involvement.

Lawyers representing the Good Law Project said Mr Cummings, then chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wanted the focus group work and communications support to go to a company whose bosses were his friends.

Ministers and Mr Cummings – who left Downing Street at the end of 2020 – challenged the Good Law Project’s claim.

London-based Judge O’Farrell considered the rival arguments at a virtual High Court hearing in February and delivered a ruling on Wednesday.

The judge said in his ruling: “The plaintiff is entitled to a declaration that the June 5, 2020 decision to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was illegal. ”

Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, said: “This is not government for the public good – it is government for the good of friends of the Conservative Party.

“We just don’t understand how the Prime Minister can run a cabinet that acts regardless of the law or the value of public money.

“The government said there was no favoritism in the awarding of contracts. But the High Court ruled that a keen observer would conclude otherwise. ”

A spokesperson for Public First said: “We are deeply proud of the work we did at the start of the pandemic, which helped save lives.

“The judge dismissed most of the Good Law Project’s claims, finding no real bias in the award of this work, nor any problem with the pace or scale of the award.

“On the contrary, the judge concluded that weak internal processes gave rise to an appearance of bias. The judge made no criticism of Public First in the judgment. ”

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This notice was published: 2021-06-09 10:22:58

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