Court rules Gove awarded contract unlawfully to mates – government will not appeal

Legal victory includes award of 75% of costs

Michael Gove acted unlawfully in contract award

A court has ruled that Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove acted unlawfully in awarding a contract to his – and Dominic Cummings’s – associates at Public First.

The judge decided that the £560,000 award showed ‘apparent bias’ and was therefore unlawful. The directors of Public First have close links to Gove and Cummings and Politico said of the firm that:

Few agencies are as plugged into the current Downing Street operation as Public First… the firm has attracted plenty of attention during the coronavirus pandemic after winning a string of high-profile public sector contracts

The government abandoned its plan to ask for permission to appeal the judgment, but reduce the costs award – and its embarrassment – by claiming that it had been partially successful in defending against the claim. The judge responded:

In this case, it is clear to the court that the claimant (Good Law Project) was the overall successful party in the case…it sought a ruling that the decision to award the contract to Public First was unlawful, and the Court has made a ruling to that effect. Also, it was successful in defeating the Defendant’s arguments about standing.

The judgment is just the latest in a number of court rulings that the Tories broke the law in its contract awards to allies and donors during the pandemic. The government must now pay 75% of Good Law Project’s costs.

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