Government gave Covid contract to Dominic Cummings' friends unlawfully, High Court rules 3 months ago

Government gave Covid contract to Dominic Cummings' friends unlawfully, High Court rules

Friends stick together, but Torys take it to the next level

The high court has ruled that the Tory government acted unlawfully by giving a Covid contract to personal friends of Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove.

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Via Getty @Hollie Adams

The communications firm is run by James Frayne and Rachel Wolf, who are both personal friends of the political strategist. The firm was inevitably paid ££564,393 for their "incredibly urgent" research and development consultancy.

Cummings himself has admitted to having a personal connection with the firm: "I am friends with James Frayne, Rachel Wolfe and Gabriel Milland."

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The challenge failed on two grounds. Firstly, the government could have used existing suppliers to conduct the research needed. The second was that the six-month contract was disproportionate. However, the challenge did succeed on the third point that "gave rise to apparent bias contrary to principles of public law".

Mrs Justice O'Farrell, the leading judge on the case, had the following to say in her final assessment:

"[Dominic Cummings'] professional and personal connections with Public First did not preclude him from making an impartial assessment…

"However, [the Cabinet Office's] failure to consider any other research agency, by reference to experience, expertise, availability or capacity, would lead a fair minded and informed observer to conclude that there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision maker was biased."

She added that "The claimant is entitled to a declaration that decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract to Public First gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful."

The Director of the Good Law Project said: "This is not Government for the public good - it is Government for the good of friends of the Conservative Party.

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A hearing at a later date will determine whether or not the Government can appeal the decision - the same goes for Gove.