Matt Hancock broke the rules over Dido Harding appointment, high court rules 4 months ago

Matt Hancock broke the rules over Dido Harding appointment, high court rules

Matt Hancock wasn't acting above board

Former health secretary Matt Hancock broke the rules over appointments of Test and Trace chiefs Dido Harding and Mike Coupe.

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A High Court has ruled the selections broke public sector equality when the two were appointed to senior posts in the covid response.

It means the Runnymede Trust successfully won its claim against the government over the unlawful appointment of Harding as chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, and Mike Coupe as director of testing at NHS test and trace.

In May 2020, Harding was appointed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to head the £37 billion NHS Test and Trace. After the abolishment of Public Health England in August 2020, Harding was also appointed interim chief executive of the new National Institute for Health Protection.

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A month later, Harding’s former colleague at Sainsbury’s, Mike Coupe, was made director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.

Race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust brought a legal challenge against both appointments, alongside the Good Law Project who accused Matt Hancock of "acting unlawfully".

Following a High Court hearing in December, the judges found both appointments “did not comply with the public sector equality duty”.

Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Swift said in a written ruling: "It is the process leading up to the two decisions which has been found by this court to be in breach of the public sector equality duty.

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"For those reasons we will grant a declaration to the Runnymede Trust that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care did not comply with the public sector equality duty in relation to the decisions how to appoint Baroness Harding as interim executive chair of the NIHP in August 2020 and Mr Coupe as director of testing for NHSTT in September 2020."

While the judges ruled that the Runnymede Trust had sufficient standing to bring a public sector equality duty challenge, it found the Good Law Project did not.

Dr Halima Begum, Chief Executive of the Runnymede Trust described the judgement as "incredibly significant to the British people".

She said "It shows the importance of the Public Sector Equality Duty and its role in protecting the people of this nation from the closed shop of Government appointments, not least in a time of national crisis where people from our minority communities were dying from Covid in hugely disproportionate numbers."

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Matt Hancock resigned as Health Secretary last year, after pictures emerged of him breaking his own lockdown rules by kissing an aide in his office.

He is still serving as the Conservative Member of Parliament for West Suffolk.

A spokesperson for Matt Hancock said: "We're delighted the department has won yet another court case against the discredited Good Law Project. Claims of 'apparent bias' and 'indirect discrimination' have been quashed and thrown out by the High Court.
"What the judgement does make clear is that 'the claim brought by Good Law Project fails in its entirety', therefore highlighting the fact this group continues to waste the court's time.
"The court judgment also states that 'the evidence provides no support...at all' for the allegation that Dido Harding secured senior positions on the basis of 'personal or political connections' in the government.
"They accept these 'were urgent recruitment processes which needed to find highly specialised, experienced and available candidates within a short space of time.'

"Let's not forget, we were dealing with an unprecedented global pandemic, where time was of the essence in order to protect and save lives."

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