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The government can keep the amount of public money spent on unusable personal protective equipment from two companies confidential, the High Court has ruled.
The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor are bringing legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care, claiming that contracts awarded to PestFix, Clandeboye and Ayanda Capital were given unlawfully at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in April and May 2020.
The two groups allege DHSC has failed to provide proper reasons for why the contracts were awarded and say the government violated principles of equal treatment and transparency when making the deals, worth more than £700m.
Jason Coppel QC, for the groups, said approximately £595m was spent with PestFix and Ayanda, but it is not publicly known how much of this was spent on PPE which did not meet technical standards.
The breakdown of the spending on each type of PPE or the amount paid in pre-payments by the government to the companies has been kept confidential.
The DHSC argued they are commercially sensitive and Mrs Justice O’Farrell found the specific pricing details were not relevant to what the court has to decide and did not need to be disclosed to the public.
A large part of the Good Law Project and
EveryDoctor’s claim is that the use of a “VIP lane” gave an unfair,
unlawful advantage to some companies.
is contesting the claim and has told the court that it “wholeheartedly
rejects” the case against it.
Michael Bowsher QC, for the DHSC, said
in written submissions that at the time of lockdown and rising infection and death, it was their duty to secure unprecedented volumes of PPE and medical devices to save lives.
He said the government put together an unprecedented programme during a serious crisis when the pandemic had reshaped the PPE market.
In a statement, the department said the
National Audit Office found no evidence ministers were involved in procurement
The case, which is being heard remotely by Mrs Justice O’Farrell, is expected to end on Tuesday next week.