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We’ve settled a number of pandemic procurement cases

29th June 2023

The Government has done everything it can to make it as hard as possible to challenge their decisions.

Helen Sessions / Alamy Stock Photo

We are pleased to share with you that, after months of negotiations with Ministers, we have settled a number of historical cases about their sleazy pandemic procurement practices.

The terms are that Good Law Project will pay £60,000 (half of Government’s costs) in one of the cases (the Hanbury case). In the other three cases (Bunzl, Immensa and Pharmaceuticals Direct) each side will bear its own costs. 

The settlement orders for the cases, which reflect a joint statement agreed by the parties, each say: 

“Recent judgments in procurement-related challenges brought by the Claimant [i.e. Good Law Project] have found that the Claimant did not have legal standing [i.e. a sufficient interest to bring a case] to bring the claims. The parties agree that there are accordingly serious doubts over whether the Claimant would be found to have standing to bring this claim listed above, and that it is as such not a good use of the parties’ resources for the claim to be pursued.”

We’d like to explain the deal – and why we’ve agreed to it.

In our first two procurement cases – you can read them here and here – the High Court accepted we had standing. It is obvious, you might think, that there is a public interest in transactions whereby Conservative Ministers channel billions in public money to their donors and associates. And initially the High Court said this about Good Law Project: 

“It has a sincere interest, and some expertise, in scrutinising government conduct in this area… To my mind, there is a powerful public interest in the resolution, one way or the other, of the issues raised.”

However, those early successes generated Ministerial threats against judges culminating with this press release. In it Rishi Sunak threatened to bypass Parliament and change the law to stop Good Law Project challenging his Government – unless judges acted. And since that press release we have not been found to have standing in any cases.

What this frightening sequence of events reveals about the fragility – and power bias – of the rule of law in the UK is the subject of Bringing Down Goliath. But, as far as Good Law Project is concerned, the new reality was that, however appalling the Government’s pandemic misconduct, we could not expect to win these cases.

We contemplated continuing the litigation anyway – the transparency alone is important to us. 

But Government lawyers, no doubt under huge pressure from Ministers, acquired a further ugly habit – of running up oversized cost bills. A witness statement revealed there were only 168 judicial review cases in the last ten years where costs exceeded £100,000 – out of over 17,000. But in our cases their costs were high six figure sums and on several occasions exceeded £1m. Ministers may not care – the costs Government lawyers were running up did not come from their pockets. But, even with cost caps, our liabilities were huge and would have to be met, not from the pockets of wealthy pandemic VIPs, but from small donations made every month by supporters like you. 

There is much to be done. The Government is threatening to hand your private health data to Palantir, the NHS is in crisis, and we are imprisoning our young for protesting against the climate change that will destroy their futures. We think we should – and we will – spend the money you entrust to us on those things.We have adapted. The impact of the unprincipled new ‘rule’ – that Good Law Project cannot bring cases – is minimised by us finding and supporting third parties to bring cases instead. And we continue to enjoy considerable success. For so long as you continue to support us, we will work tirelessly for the better world we so desperately need.