UK Crony Capitalism: Matt Hancock’s messages

22 September 2021 — Good Law Project

For months, Government has been refusing to hand over evidence in our challenge concerning Abingdon Health, the testing company awarded £85 million worth of contracts without competition. Yesterday we took Government to Court to fight for this evidence – and we had a good day.

The Judge ordered the search of Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages and personal email accounts. We believe this is the first time a Judge has ordered a Minister, or ex-minister, to hand over their personal WhatsApps and text messages.

In fact, the Judge seemed to share our view more generally that Government’s explanations for why they haven’t recovered information from Ministers’ devices simply do not stack up, and he ruled as follows:

  • Lord Bethell must provide a Witness Statement to the Court to explain – once and for all – what happened to his phone.
  • Government needs to provide a Witness Statement to the Court explaining how they are going to ensure they recover all the necessary data from Bethell’s phone.
  • In addition to coughing up Lord Bethell’s private emails, Government must also trawl Matt Hancock’s personal emails and WhatsApps for relevant information as to how these contracts came to be awarded with no competition.

We will now get to see previously hidden messages from the Ministers involved in awarding this lucrative contract. We will also issue an application against Professor Sir John Bell in respect of his documents (to cover WhatsApp, University of Oxford emails and personal emails). He has previously refused to share any of his records, despite his hugely significant role in the contract awards.

Will these documents shed more light on the murky goings-on in the awarding of these contracts? Contracts which Ministers overruled their own legal advisors to sign, leaving taxpayers with a multimillion-pound bill when it turned out the tests didn’t even work.

The Judge remarked yesterday that Good Law Project is “holding the government – correctly – to high standards of conduct, both in the awards of contracts and generally” – and we will continue to do so.

Thank you,

Gemma Abbott

Legal Director

Good Law Project

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