23 September 2020 — Goodlaw Project
Last night, in his address to the nation, Boris Johnson cited ‘Operation Moonshot’ as a cornerstone of the Government’s response to coronavirus. It’s the Government’s latest plan to expand the national coronavirus testing programme and provide rapid turnaround tests. The programme is estimated to cost more than a staggering £100 billion to deliver – and is based on technology that does not even exist.
Despite this enormous sum of money, approaching £2,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country on initial estimates alone, we are being kept in the dark about ‘Operation Moonshot’. After being questioned by lawyers acting on behalf of Good Law Project and EveryDoctor, the Government has refused to provide information on who made the decision to spend this sum, or who they are spending it with.
What we do know about ‘Operation Moonshot’ gives serious cause for concern. Dido Harding, responsible for the failing Test and Trace programme, has revealed that even if these tests become available, they will not be provided free. Instead, the same taxpayers who have funded them will then have to buy them. This is already quite a shift from the original idea of universal provision. We don’t know how any revenues, accruing from public investment, will be shared with the private sector. And we don’t know what this two-tier NHS means for other health services – but we’re the very opposite of complacent.
We also don’t know who stands to profit from this taxpayer-funded gravy train. It has been reported that Serco, Deloitte and G4S are involved and that Boris Johnson’s half brother, Max, is trying to elbow his way to the front of the line.
But, for us, the most worrying thing of all is the complete absence of any Parliamentary scrutiny of this decision to spend a sum higher than our annual education budget on a programme that includes technology that doesn’t yet exist. We do know that Dominic Cummings makes life impossible for anyone – even the Chancellor – who gets in his way. Could one man have decided to do this, with no meaningful scrutiny or challenge at all? That is exactly what we fear.
There must be transparency and there must be proper governance around ‘Operation Moonshot’. We do not live in Saudi Arabia where things happen on the whim of an unelected King. Along with EveryDoctor, we are taking legal action to preserve what remains of good governance around these huge sums of money.
Incompetence and cronyism have become hallmarks of this Government’s response to coronavirus. We cannot let this go unchecked. Please, support the legal challenge here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/operation-moonshot/
Jolyon Maugham QC