The UK Government’s use of a so-called “VIP lane” to award millions of pounds’ worth of contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE) to two companies was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor took legal action over nearly £600 million of contracts awarded to pest control firm PestFix and hedge fund Ayanda Capital at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The High Court was told a VIP lane was reserved for referrals from MPs, ministers and senior officials, with the campaigners arguing the Government “prioritised suppliers including PestFix and Ayanda because of who they knew, not what they could deliver”.

In a judgment on Wednesday, Mrs Justice O’Farrell said the use of the VIP lane was unlawful.

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However, she found both of the companies’ offers “justified priority treatment on its merits” and were “very likely” to have been awarded contracts even without the VIP lane.

“Even if PestFix and Ayanda had not been allocated to the high priority lane, nevertheless they would have been treated as priority offers because of the substantial volumes of PPE they could supply that were urgently needed,” the judge said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had contested the claim, telling the court it “wholeheartedly” rejected the case against it and that the VIP lane was rational and resulted in a “large number of credible offers” in an environment where PPE deals often failed within “minutes”.

At a hearing last May, the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor argued a VIP supplier was “more than 10 times as likely” to get a contract compared to a non-VIP supplier.

Mrs Justice O’Farrell said DHSC’s evidence “establishes that presence on the high priority lane did not confer any advantage at the decision-making stage of the process”.

She continued: “However, what is clear is that offers that were introduced through the senior referrers received earlier consideration at the outset of the process.

“The high priority lane team was better resourced and able to respond to such offers on the same day that they arrived, in contrast to the opportunities team, where the sheer volume of offers prevented such swift consideration.”

She later said: “Timeous consideration of an offer was a material advantage in obtaining the award of a contract given the urgency of the procurement.”

Mrs Justice O’Farrell also found “sufficient financial due diligence” was carried out in respect of both sets of contracts.

The SNP's Deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald MP said the ruling was "utterly damning."

She added: ""It once again shines a light on the cronyism and corruption driving this broken Tory government.

"Through the course of this pandemic we have watched how this scandal-ridden Tory government has gifted lucrative taxpayer-funded contracts to party friends and contacts without due process through its VIP lane.

"The UK government has sought to dodge accountability at every opportunity over its handling of public money, but UK government ministers must now come before Parliament following the High Court's ruling. The SNP has consistently made clear that there must be a full public inquiry into the process of Covid contracts.”