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High Court: UK Gov't Use of 'VIP Lane' to Award PPE Contracts is Unlawful

© AP Photo / Jon SuperFILE - In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 file photo, a view of masks and goggles, part of PPE, personal protective equipment, to avoid being infected or transmitting coronavirus, at the Nightingale Hospital North West set up in the Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester, northern England
FILE  - In this Thursday, April 16, 2020 file photo, a view of masks and goggles, part of PPE, personal protective equipment, to avoid being infected or transmitting coronavirus, at the Nightingale Hospital North West set up in the Manchester Central Convention Complex in Manchester, northern England - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.01.2022
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The Johnson government has faced numerous sleaze allegations related to the suspected handing out of lucrative contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Tory-affiliated companies and businessmen with personal connections and friendships with high-ranking government officials.
Britain's High Court has ruled unlawful the government's use of a so-called 'VIP fast lane' for companies with connections to ministers and high-level officials in the sale of Covid-related personal protection equipment (PPE) to the state.

"Claimants have established that operation of the High Priority Lane was in breach of the obligation of equal treatment...the illegality is marked by this judgement," the High Court judge ruled on Wednesday.

The so-called "VIP fast lanes," reserved for referrals by members of the government, MPs, and other senior officials, were brought to the court's attention by the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor campaign groups, who accused the government of tampering with the bidding process to provide preferential treatment to companies and businessmen with political connections.
"Offers that were introduced through the Senior Referrers received earlier consideration at the outset of the process. The High Priority Lane Team was better resourced and able to respond to such office on the same day that they arrived," the judge indicated.

She also ruled that "there is evidence that opportunities were treated as high priority even where there was no objectively justifiable grounds for expediting the offer," and that contracts were awarded on a "flawed basis."

Good Law Project and EveryDoctor took the government to court over more than £340 million pounds in contracts doled out to PestFix, a pest control company, and £252 million to Ayanda – a hedge fund – for the sourcing of personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
The judge in the case did not allow for information about just how much money was misallocated to be disclosed and determined that the two companies would likely have been awarded the contracts even without the preferential treatment. Good Law Project has indicated that it is "considering the wider implications of these aspects of the ruling and next steps."
"We first revealed the red carpet-to-riches VIP lane for those with political connections in October 2020. Since then, we have fought to reveal details of those who benefited, and at whose request -while the Government fought to conceal them. Never again should any Government treat a public health crisis as an opportunity to enrich its associates and donors at public expense," the campaign group said in a statement following the ruling.
Wednesday's decision is the latest setback for the Johnson government, which has been reeling from scandals related to "Partygate" – a series of incidents revealed to the press in recent weeks implicating the prime minister and members of his staff and the government in hosting drinks-filled parties throughout 2020 while ordinary Britons faced hard Covid lockdowns.
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing as he speaks during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on December 1, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.01.2022
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly question time debate at Parliament in London, Britain, January 12, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.01.2022
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