Government ordered to reveal companies in ‘VIP lane’ for Covid contracts

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Boris Johnson’s government has been ordered to reveal the names of all companies in a special “VIP lane” for contracts awarded during the Covid crisis.

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has asked the health department to disclose the names of companies supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.

The government has been accused of cronyism after it emerged that firms affiliated with the Conservative Party were given access to a higher priority lane – called the “VIP lane” by campaigners.


The ICO said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had “failed to comply” with freedom of information rules by refusing to release the names of the 47 firms that were prioritized.

Following a request from the Legal Campaign Group for details, the department has now been given 35 days to hand over the information to the Good Law Project.

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The group has brought legal proceedings against the government’s fast-track system for PPE contracts – arguing that companies with political connections should be given priority for deals while other firms waited in line.

The government has argued that a VIP lane was a “perfectly reasonable and rational” solution to the large number of proposals for the supply of equipment at the start of the pandemic.

The £12.5bn deals for masks, gloves and gowns and other personal equipment have come under intense scrutiny after the National Audit Office disclosed that a “VIP list” through contact with politicians and senior officials The companies placed on the other were 10 times more likely to win the contract. in the early months of the pandemic.

The spending watchdog said last year that ministers had not demonstrated that they spent billions of pounds on PPE in a way that was “fair and transparent”.

On Thursday, the information commissioner wrote: “DHSC has not disclosed the requested information, nor has advised the commissioner that it believes that it has been exempted on the basis of another exemption. DHSC therefore under its FOIA Failed to comply with obligations.”

The letter sent to the DHSC also warned that “failure to comply may result in the Commissioner having written certification of the fact to the High Court … and may be treated as contempt of court”. “.

A spokesperson for the Good Law Project said: “As soon as company names are shared with us, we will publish them.

“The Good Law Project will continue to work to uncover the staggering waste – and sledge – of the PPE VIP bonanza worth £12.5 billion.”


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