MPs take government to court over £3bn in unaccounted coronavirus contracts
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A group of MPs are launching legal action against the government after it failed to account for £3 billion in private coronavirus contracts since the start of the lockdown in April.
Three cross-party MPs and the Good Law Project - a non-for-profit organisation - have filed a judicial review against the government for breaching the law and its own guidelines as they say there are mounting concerns over coronavirus procurement processes.
The Green's Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams and Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran say the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed to disclose to the public over £3 billion worth of contracts out of £11 billion awarded since April.
The DHSC has said due diligence was carried out on all government contracts which have been awarded. The government has 21 days to respond to the judicial review proceedings.
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.
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"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.
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"We are left with no option but to push for transparency through the courts."
Lucas added: " When billions of pounds of public money is handed out to private companies, some of them with political connections but no experience in delivering medical supplies, ministers should be explaining why those companies were awarded the contracts.
"It’s completely unacceptable that, as an MP, I’m prevented from being able to scrutinise those decisions."
Abrahams said: "The persistent failure to publish the details of Covid contracts leads you to wonder what this government has got to hide."
Moran said: "It is totally unacceptable for the government to avoid scrutiny during a public health crisis."
The legal challenge is being crowdfunded with the support of 38 Degrees and the Good Law Project while Deighton Pierce Glynn, Jason Coppel QC and Christopher Knight of 11KBW have been instructed to act in the judicial review proceedings.