UK: Boris Johnson ‘misled Parliament’ over Covid-19 contracts
The final court order in a judicial review brought by the Good Law Project has found that Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled MPs when he said all Covid-19 contracts were “on the record for everybody to see”.
The High Court in London ruled last month that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had acted unlawfully by failing to publish the details of major Covid-19 contracts within 30 days of being awarded.
Three days later, Mr Johnson had told MPs: “All I will say is that the contracts are there on the record for everybody to see.”
However, the final order handed down by the judge on Friday states that the government “has published 608 out of 708 relevant contracts for supplies and services relating to Covid-19 awarded on or before 7 October 2020”.
In a statement, the Good Law Project said: “Remarkably, the judge’s order is based on government’s own figures – so at the same time as Johnson was falsely reassuring MPs, Government lawyers were preparing a statement contradicting him – revealing 100 contracts and dozens of contract award notices were missing from the public record.”
It added: “Government has not only misled Parliament and placed inaccurate information before the court, it has misled the country. Unless contract details are published they cannot be properly scrutinised – there’s no way of knowing where taxpayers’ money is going and why.
“Billions have been spent with those linked to the Conservative Party and vast sums wasted on PPE that isn’t fit for purpose. We have a government, and a prime minister, contemptuous of transparency and apparently allergic to accountability. The very least that the public deserves now is the truth.”
A spokesperson for the UK government said: “We have been working tirelessly to deliver what is needed to protect our health and social care staff throughout this pandemic, within very short timescales and against a backdrop of unparalleled global demand.
“This has often meant having to award contracts at speed to secure the vital supplies required to protect NHS workers and the public.
“We are committed to publishing all contracts and to date have published 99 per cent of these in the Official Journal of the EU and we are working to publish outstanding contracts as soon as possible.
“As the 2020 NAO report recognised, all of the NHS providers audited were always able to get what they needed in time, thanks to the effort of government, the NHS, Armed Forces, civil servants and industry, who delivered over 8.8 billion items of PPE to the frontline at record speed.”