Money for their mates
The High Court has now ruled Michael Gove broke the law by giving a contract to a communications agency run by long time associates of him and Dominic Cummings.
The Court found that the decision to award the £560,000 contract to Public First was tainted by “apparent bias” and was unlawful.
You can read the judgment here.
Why do so many public contracts end up with friends of Dominic Cummings? Like us, you might have wondered. But, although reporters pick these stories up, nothing ever happens. Well, this time it's different.
On 3 March 2020, the Cabinet Office shook hands with Public First, a small privately held polling company. There was no formal contract, prior advertisement, or competitive tender process. It just made what procurement lawyers call a 'direct award'. It formalised it retrospectively on 5 June 2020 and publicised it a week later. The total contract value is £840,000.
The directors and owners of Public First are Ms Rachel Wolf and Mr James Frayne. They have close connections with both the Minister for the Cabinet Office (the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP) and his long time colleague and Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister who works in the Cabinet Office (Mr Dominic Cummings).
We believe that money for your mates, on a handshake, formalised later, is unlawful.
This is why Good Law Project has instructed Rook Irwin Sweeney and leading procurement lawyers Jason Coppel QC and Patrick Halliday. You can read our formal pre action protocol letter to Mr Gove and Mr Cummings here and the proceedings here.
To ensure value for money, to protect public funds, to guard against cronyism and bungs, one must put public contracts out to tender. And there was no exception here to that rule.
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30th July 2020: Witness statement of Jolyon Maugham QC: available here
30th July 2020: Witness statement of Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP: available here
19th August 2020: Defendant's Summary Grounds of Resistance: available here
24th November 2020: Order from Court granting Permission for application Judicial Review: available here
21st December 2020: Detailed Grounds of Resistance: available here
21st December 2020: Witness statement of Dominic Cummings: available here
21st December 2020: Witness statement of Lee Cain: available here (Government was unable to produce a signed version of Lee Cain's witness statement and so it was not relied upon in the hearing)
21st December 2020: Witness statement of Helen Stratton: available here
21st December 2020: Witness statement of Nicola Westmore: available here
21st December 2020: Witness statement of Alex Aiken: available here
21st December 2020: Witness statment of Simon Soothill: available here
21st December 2020: Witness statement of Catherine Hunt: available here
25th January 2021: Claimant's skeleton argument: available here
1st February 2021: Defendant's first skeleton: available here
9th February 2021: Witness statement of Mrs Jan Gooding: available here
10th February 2021: Email and instant messaging evidence: available here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here
10th February 2021: Extract from NAO report: available here
15th February 2021: Summary of hearing: available here