Boris Johnson’s government has been ordered to reveal the names of all the companies in a special “VIP lane” for contracts handed out during the Covid crisis.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has told the health department it must disclose the names of the companies fast-tracked to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.
The government has been accused of cronyism after it emerged that firms linked to the Conservative Party were given access to a High Priority Lane – dubbed the “VIP lane” by campaigners.
The ICO said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had “failed to comply” with Freedom of Information rules by refusing to release the names of the 47 firms given priority. The department has been given 35 days to hand over the information to the Good Law Project – which has accused ministers of “sleazy pandemic procurement” – following the group’s request for details.
The campaign group has brought legal proceedings against the government’s fast-track system for PPE contracts – arguing it was unlawful for companies with political connections to be prioritised for deals while other firms had to wait in line. The government has argued that a VIP lane was a “perfectly reasonable and rational” solution to the large number of offers to supply equipment at the beginning of the pandemic.