THE High Court has ruled that the fast-track VIP lane which saw lucrative PPE contracts handed to associates of top Tories was unlawful.

The Tory government’s creation of the “High Priority Lane” for government contracts was found to be illegal in itself, breaching the “obligation of equal treatment”.

The judge agreed that the VIP lane “was better resourced” and conferred preferential treatment on bids. This meant offers were considered sooner in a process where timing was critical, and VIPs’ hands were held throughout.

The court also found: “There is evidence that opportunities were treated as high priority even where there were no objectively justifiable grounds for expediting the offer.”

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Jo Maugham, the director of Good Law Project said: “Good Law Project revealed the red carpet-to-riches VIP lane for those with political connections in October 2020. And the Court has now held that, unsurprisingly, the lane was illegal.

“Never again should any government treat a public health crisis as an opportunity to enrich its associates and donors at public expense.”

Dr Julia Grace Patterson, the chief executive of EveryDoctor, which also brought the lawsuit, said: "We brought the government to court because NHS staff and other frontline workers were woefully unsupported and unprotected by this government. Many were provided with no PPE, and many died.

“The government must never again be allowed to conduct themselves in this manner during a national healthcare crisis."

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

The judge found that, even though Pestfix and Ayanda received unlawful preferential treatment via the VIP lane, they would likely have been awarded contracts anyway.

The judge also refused to allow publication of how much money was wasted by the Government’s failure to carry out technical assurance on the PPE supplied by Pestfix and Ayanda.

The Court noted that the majority by value of the product supplied by Pestfix and Ayanda could not be used in the NHS. Of the products supplied by Pestfix, the aprons, gowns, FFP2 masks and FFP3 masks were all defective in some way, and Pestfix is facing multiple legal actions.

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor said they are considering the wider implications of these aspects of the ruling and next steps.

The High Court was told the VIP 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”.

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”.

You can read the court's full judgment here.