Tomorrow, the High Court will hear our application for a cost capping order in our judicial review of Government’s decision to award huge PPE contracts to questionable counterparties.
We have been forced to apply for the order, which would cap the costs of both sides, after Government revealed it planned to spend an eye-watering £1 million defending the case. If we lose, Good Law Project would be liable for these enormous costs. And Ayanda and Pestfix - the fortunate VIP lane recipients of vast contracts to supply PPE much of which we now know to be unusable - are also asking for huge and, we are advised, inflated sums in costs. We are a small not-for-profit, funded by donations from members of the public. We cannot bear this kind of existential risk.
In an attempt to defend its costs bills, Government has stated that in the last ten years at least 126 judicial reviews have cost over £100k. This may be true. Yet they fail to explain that between 2010-2019, 10,692 judicial reviews were granted permission. In other words, judicial reviews that have cost over £100k represent a tiny fraction of all judicial reviews brought in this period.
Notably, Government makes no attempt to explain how many judicial reviews have cost £1 million.
Nor do we know why its costs for the three procurement judicial reviews brought by Good Law Project for which we know the costs (two of which were one-day hearings) are for more than £200k, more than £500k, and £1 million.
But you might think it has something to do with the types of points we are making. Last Monday, our case against Michael Gove showed that Dominic Cummings awarded a lucrative public contract to those he admitted were his ‘friends’. Last Friday, the High Court ruled Government had acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of COVID-19 contracts.
And our judicial review of PPE contracts has already generated an admission from Government that it purchased £155m worth of facemasks that can’t be used by the NHS, fuelled countless newspaper headlines in the UK and around the world, and prompted repeated scrutiny in the House of Commons. And it will get right to the heart of the highly troubling VIP lane largely populated by Ministerial contacts. And all of this before the case even reaches court.
Our litigation is exposing Government’s cronyism and failures to procure in the best interests of the British taxpayer. We want to continue. But we are a tiny organisation pitted against the resources of the state. Unless we are granted a cost capping order tomorrow we will not be able to. We will update you on the hearing and what that means for the PPE case in due course.
Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project