Wednesday 9 June 2021 5:38 pm

Government broke the law with Covid contract for Cummings-linked polling firm, court rules

The Government acted unlawfully by awarding a coronavirus contract worth over half a million to a polling company linked to Dominic Cummings without a tender, the High Court has ruled.

Labour has now pushed the Prime Minister to probe the matter further.

“The decision of 5 June 2020 to award the contract… gave rise to apparent bias and was unlawful,” Justice O’Farrell concluded in her judgement today, though she stopped short of finding any evidence of favouritism towards the firm.

The ruling concerned the government decision to award a contract without a tender of £560,000 to Public First, a company owned and run by two associates of Dominic Cummings, then Boris Johnson’s chief adviser.

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The firm was asked to research the public’s understanding of the coronavirus.

In a witness statement earlier in the trial, Cummings told the court that “the country was facing an unprecedented national emergency. Thousands of lives were at stake, hundreds of billions of pounds were at stake” as part of the rationale for contracts being granted without tender.

The government has been accused of handing out contracts to close contacts of government ministers and failing to advertise the huge tenders.

The ruling is the second in a series of judicial review legal challenges brought by campaigners at The Good Law Project.

However, Public First said they were “deeply proud” of the work they did in the early stages of the pandemic.

“The Judge rejected most of the Good Law Project’s claims, not finding actual bias in the awarding of this work, nor any problems with the pace or scale of the award. Rather, the Judge found that weak internal processes gave rise to the appearance of bias. The judge made no criticism whatsoever of Public First anywhere in the judgement.”

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