Government's PPE 'VIP lane' was UNLAWFUL, judges rule

Government’s controversial ‘VIP lane’ that was used to hand out £600m worth of PPE contracts to pest control firm and hedge fund during the first wave of the pandemic was UNLAWFUL, judge rules

  • VIP lane was reserved for referrals from MPs, ministers and senior officials
  • Saw vast sums paid to pest control firm PestFix and hedge fund Ayanda Capital  
  • Judge said it was unlawful to give preferential treatment based on connections 

The Government’s use of a so-called ‘VIP lane’ to award millions of pounds’ worth of contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) to two companies was unlawful, the High Court ruled today.

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor claimed the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) unlawfully awarded contracts to supply PPE at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The groups took legal action over more than £340million in contracts awarded to pest control firm PestFix and a contract worth around £252million to the hedge fund Ayanda Capital.

The High Court was told this lane was reserved for referrals from MPs, ministers and senior officials, adding that DHSC ‘then prioritised suppliers including PestFix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they could deliver’.

The groups argued that the use of the VIP lane gave an unfair, unlawful advantage to some companies, paid ‘inflated’ prices, and spent half of the £592m on equipment the NHS could not even use. 

The PPE ‘VIP lane’ was reserved for referrals from MPs, ministers and senior officials 

‘The outcome of all of this was a truly tragic waste of public money,’ Jason Coppel QC, representing the groups, told the court. 

DHSC contested the claim, telling the court it ‘wholeheartedly’ rejected the case against it and that the VIP lane was rational and resulted in a ‘large number of credible offers’ in an environment where PPE deals often failed within ‘minutes’.

In a remote judgment this morning, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said that it was unlawful to give the two companies preferential treatment on the basis of being part of the VIP lane.

However, she found that both of the companies’ offers ‘justified priority treatment on its merits’ and were ‘very likely’ to have been awarded contracts even without the VIP lane. 

Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money was showered on companies with connections to senior politicians 

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