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Last night’s Panorama gave us the extraordinary tale of a dog food supplier turned PPE broker bagging herself millions acting as a ‘bridge’ for a Hong Kong supplier. Details of the largest contract – worth £178m – came to light only after the BBC’s probing prompted the Government to publish.
It sought to explain its failure as an “admin error.” But even if true – which we doubt – this doesn’t justify a further breach of the law on transparency. Despite the High Court ruling in our favour last month that Matt Hancock had broken the law in failing to publish pandemic contracts the failures continue. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson and his Minister mislead Parliament about the scale of the breaches. And refuse to come clean about the beneficiaries of its ‘VIP’ lane.
In his judgment, Judge Chamberlain said “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.” We agree. And so we have today written to Matt Hancock launching new legal proceedings for his continuing failures to comply with the law.
Our grounds focus on two key issues:
“One unfortunate consequence of non-compliance with the transparency obligations…is that people can start to harbour suspicions of improper conduct...” said Judge Chamberlain in last month’s judgment.
We agree. If they have nothing to hide why won’t they publish?
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