Tories’ Covid contracts ‘VIP lane’ ruled UNLAWFUL in landmark case

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contracts VIP lane
Photo by Ömer Yıldız on Unsplash

The Government’s use of a ‘VIP Lane’ to expedite some of their lucrative Covid contracts to two companies has been ruled unlawful by the High Court today. The contracts VIP lane was used to hand out billions of pounds worth of deals to associates of ministers and officials during the early months of the pandemic in the UK.

This initial challenge was brought to the High Court by The Good Law Project and campaign group EveryDoctor. In its ruling, the judge said that the operation of the “high priority lane” was “in breach of the obligation of equal treatment… The illegality is marked by this judgement.”

The groups took action over the contracts awarded to pest control firm PestFix and the hedge fund Ayanda Capital. They argued that the equipment purchased through the contracts, which cost millions of pounds, was “useless to the NHS”. They also stated it was purchased without proper technical checks, at inflated prices, based on the recommendations of ministers through the contracts VIP lane.

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The High Court was also told that this lane was reserved for referrals by people connected to the government and added that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) “then prioritised suppliers including PestFix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they could deliver”.

The hearing lasted for five days with Jason Coppel QC, working on behalf of the groups, telling the court: “The outcome of all this was a truly tragic waste of public money”, with “well over half” of the approximately £595 million spent with the two companies was “wasted” on PPE that did not meet standards for use in the NHS.

DHSC rejected the claims “wholeheartedly”, saying the use of the contracts VIP lane resulted in a “large number of credible offers” in an environment where PPE deals often failed within “minutes”. “The goal here was to try and get as much of the right PPE in as quickly as possible. That was the simple point,” said the barrister for the DHSC, Michael Bowsher QC.


In the landmark ruling, Mrs Justice O’Farrell agreed that the contracts VIP lane conferred preferential treatment on bids and sped up the process. She said: “Offers that were introduced through the Senior Referrers received earlier consideration at the outset of the process.”

Jo Maugham, Director of The Good Law Project, said: “Good Law Project revealed the red carpet-to-riches VIP lane for those with political connections in October 2020. And the court has now held that, unsurprisingly, the lane was illegal. Never again should any government treat a public health crisis as an opportunity to enrich its associates and donors at public expense.”

When speaking to The Mirror, Dr Julia Grace Patterson, Chief Executive of EveryDoctor, Said: “We brought the government to court because NHS staff and other frontline workers were woefully undersupported and unprotected by this government. Many were provided with no PPE, and many died. The government must never again be allowed to conduct themselves in this manner during a national healthcare crisis”.



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