Last week, the High Court granted permission to advance our case against Government for its award of contracts to Abingdon Health for rapid antibody tests. The deal with Abingdon Health has been marred by controversy since the very beginning, with Government suppressing reports that raised the alarm around the effectiveness of the tests and ignoring their own legal advice on the lawfulness of the contracts.
The High Court has now agreed that we can argue our case on the following grounds:
- There was apparent bias in the award of contracts by Government, given the role the Government’s own scientific advisor Professor Sir John Bell played in securing the deal for Abingdon Health. The Judge observed that Professor Sir John Bell was on ‘both sides of the contract’, given his role both as a key Government advisor and also as a significant figure in the UK Rapid Testing Consortium, which acted as subcontractor to Abingdon Health;
- Government awarded the contracts to Abingdon Health unlawfully by giving preferential treatment to Abingdon Health because it was a British company;
- The decision to award the contracts to Abingdon Health breached the obligations of equal treatment, transparency and proportionality because Government failed to undertake any transparent or lawful process at all in respect of the award of the contracts;
- The contract awards led to the grant of unlawful state aid (including Government subsidies for research and components), for which no justification whatsoever has been put forward;
- Government acted irrationally when awarding contracts to Abingdon Health. In particular, the first contract stated that the tests had to be tested and deemed fit for use by the regulator by a certain date. The date came and went without the tests being validated, yet Government pressed ahead with another contract.
The full transcript of the judgement can be found here.
Until now, Government has refused to engage meaningfully with our case. It was noted several times by the Judge that it was not possible to consider points in detail because of the lack of evidence provided by Government. But the Court’s decision last week means that Government will no longer be able to fob us off. In particular, it will be forced to disclose details of the decision-making process - and the role of Professor Sir John Bell - as part of these proceedings.
It is perhaps not surprising then that Government is once again estimating an eye-watering bill to defend this case - around £670,000. Despite these huge costs, we will not be deterred. We have applied for a cost capping order so we can continue to push for answers.
This deal has been shrouded in mystery since the very beginning. If you are in a position to donate to the legal challenge, you can help uncover the truth: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/abingdon-health/
Jolyon Maugham Director of Good Law Project https://goodlawproject.org