VIP Lane for PPE was ‘perfectly reasonable’ – Government


T

he ‘VIP Lane’ for PPE contracts was a “perfectly reasonable and rational” solution to the mass of offers to supply equipment at the start of the pandemic, the government has told the High Court.

Both were put into a High Priority Lane – dubbed a ‘VIP Lane’ – because they had been referred the PPE procurement team by someone within government.

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor Ltd, which have brought legal proceedings, say the system was unlawful as companies with political connections were fast-tracked to deals while other firms had to wait in a queue.

Michael Bowsher QC, representing the Health Secretary, said “noise in the system” was identified as a problem for the procurement team, as suppliers and their political connections repeatedly requested updates on PPE deals in the works.

He said the establishment of a ‘VIP Team’, as well as a dedicated email inbox for MPs to ask questions, helped the PPE procurement team to “focus on their essential task”.

“The initial rationale…was that offers which had been referred by a senior referrer were going to be different because those referrers would want updates. That was going to create its own separate problem”, he said. “That needed to be addressed.”

In a message to colleagues which has been made public through the court process, Max Cairnduff, a senior procurement manager in the Cabinet Office, identified “unnecessary noise in the system” when justifying the VIP Lane.

“The ‘noise problem’…was inadvertent”, said Mr Bowsher. “It wasn’t that senior referrers wanted to create a problem, they thought they were helping.



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