On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
UK Government Ordered To Reveal Which Companies Were In ‘VIP Lane’ For Covid Contracts
What just happened?
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said that the Department of Health had breached the freedom of information rules by refusing to release companies involved in VIP lane deals, which were contracted to a number of companies to track the supply of personal protective equipment during the pandemic. (1)
What does this mean?
The campaign group has filed a lawsuit against the government over the expedited system for PSA contracts, arguing that it is illegal for companies with political connections to favor deals while other firms are lining up. It has also asked government lawyers and pharmaceutical companies to make awarding contracts a top priority. (2)
A total of 493 suppliers were placed on the VIP list, of which 47 were awarded the contract through tenders. The National Audit Office, the spending watchdog of government, found that only one in ten priority suppliers were contracting compared with one in 100 suppliers using the normal route. (3)
The government has been ordered to publish a list of 47 companies that received major PPE contracts in "high priority lanes" in the first week of the pandemic last year. The Government published 40 PSA contracts worth a total of £4.2billion in February last year, but Boris Johnson has claimed the details of the contracts go beyond what it has put on the record. (4)
How does this impact the legal sector?
Court documents today confirm for the first time that Clandeboye used VIP lanes for Pestfix and Ayanda, a hedge fund with links to the Conservative Party, but the names of three other companies that benefited from it are yet to be revealed. Jason Coppel, who represents Good Law Project, today called for the Government to put their cards on the table by sharing internal discussion in VIP corridors, relevant messages in WhatsApp groups and ministerial messages about the contracts. (5)
The government refuses to disclose which companies have received public money, citing commercial secrecy, after having their offers vetted by VIP providers. The Good Law Projects case illustrates two cases in which political connections of companies appear to have been incorporated into their bids for state COVID contracts, known as VIP lanes for politically connected suppliers. The government has denied that ministers played any role in which companies won contracts and that VIP railways were used to channel public money to claimants who benefited from the government. (6)
Eight months ago, a wealthy former investment banker and Conservative great, Paul Deighton who now sits in the House of Lords, helped the government award billions of pounds of contracts, including hundreds of millions, to several companies with which he had financial interests and personal connections. Evidence suggests that at least seven companies were awarded lucrative government contracts totalling $300 million due to their links with executives at Lord Deighton and Goldman Sachs even though they were not directly involved in awarding contracts to trace and advise vaccine contacts. (7)
An investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) found no evidence that ministers were involved in procurement decisions or contract management but said that many VIP-ways were operated by upcoming MPs and opposition colleagues. (8)
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has found that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has breached the freedom of information guidelines by refusing to publish the names of companies whose VIP lane contracts specific were awarded during the Covid disaster and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. Following a request for details from a legal action group, the Department of Health has 35 days to release the names of companies whose special contracts for VIP trains were awarded to the Good Law Project during the crisis. Meanwhile, the Data Commissioner for Workplace (ICO) has ordered the Better Division to disclose the names of companies that have been prosecuted as private safeguards or PSAs during the coronavirus crisis. (9)
To those who are unaware of the current political predicament taking place in UK politics, the UK government has been accused of rampant nepotism after details released revealed that VIPs were being investigated and certain firms referred to ministers in order to win lucrative COVID contracts. (10)
#Addleshaw Goddard #Baker McKenzie #DLA Piper #Hogan Lovells International LLP #Pinsent Masons LLP #RPC #Travers Smith LLP #Ashurst #Bird & Bird LLP #Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP #Charles Russell Speechlys LLP #CMS #Dentons #Gowling WLG #Slaughter and May
2https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1040 and https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/covid-contracts-vip-lane-ppe-b1940277.html
3https://www.bmj.com/content/373/bmj.n1040 and https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/uk-politicians-who-referred-ppe-firms-to-vip-lane-to-be-named/
4https://www.cityam.com/12bn-ppe-bonanza-government-ordered-to-reveal-firms-in-2020s-high-priority-lane/ and https://goodlawproject.org/
10 https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/uk-politicians-who-referred-ppe-firms-to-vip-lane-to-be-named/ and https://www.thenational.scot/news/19601160.government-emails-reveal-vip-route-uk-covid-contracts/