- PPE procurement ‘VIP lane’ breached obligation of equal treatment under PCR 2015 (R (Good Law Project and Every Doctor) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- What did the court decide?
- Grounds for judicial review
- Case details
Public Law analysis: The Good Law Project Ltd and Every Doctor Ltd sought judicial review of decisions made by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to make direct awards pursuant to regulation 32(2)(c) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR 2015) of contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Interested Parties (‘Pestfix’, ‘Clandeboye’, and ‘Ayanda’). The procurement opportunities offered by PestFix and Ayanda were allocated to a novel high priority or ‘VIP’ lane which the defendant had established in the early stages of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to handle offers from potential suppliers referred directly by ministers, MPs, and senior officials. Mrs Justice O’Farrell held that the operation of the VIP lane breached the principle of equal treatment under PCR 2015 as there was no objective basis to justify the preferential treatment (in the form of speedier processing) of offers referred to the VIP lane over those submitted in the normal manner via the online portal. However, the offers by PestFix and Ayanda justified priority treatment on their merits, and it was highly likely that the contracts would have been awarded even if they had not benefited from referral under the VIP lane. The court therefore refused relief, applying section 31 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (SCA 1981). Written by Siân McGibbon, barrister at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.
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