The health secretary said ‘it was right to delay publishing contracts during pandemic.’
The UK government acted unlawfully in failing to publish details of dozens of contracts awarded without competition for goods and services such as personal protective equipment (PPE) needed during the covid-19 pandemic, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Chamberlain upheld a challenge by the non-profit Good Law Project to the failure by Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary for England, to publish notices for a “substantial” number of the deals, as required by law.
Mr Hancock told the BBC his team had been focused on sourcing PPE.
He said they ‘spent all of their time buying life-saving equipment, even if the paperwork was a little bit late’.
The Green Party’s MP Caroline Lucas supported the legal action and said Mr Hancock’s response made her angry.
She tweeted: ‘How dare Hancock suggest he broke [the] law to prevent shortages of PPE on the frontline?
Health workers died for lack of [the] right PPE at [the] right time because of incompetence, cronyism and waste – does he think our memories are so short?’
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) struck deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds during the coronavirus pandemic.
Campaign group the Good Law Project took legal action against the Department of Health. supported by three MPs Ms Lucas, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams and Lib Dem Layla Moran, over its “wholesale failure” to disclose details of the contracts agreed.
Under the law, the government is required to publish a “contract award notice” within 30 days of the awarding any contracts for public goods or services worth more than £120,000.
But in his ruling, Mr Justice Chamberlain said: “There is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the secretary of state breached his legal obligation to publish contract award notices within 30 days of the award of contracts.