Sir Keir Starmer has said he doesn’t want to call for Matt Hancock’s resignation after a court ruled he “acted unlawfully” when his department did not reveal details of contracts it had signed during the pandemic.
Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday the Labour leader said he believes the health secretary to be wrong about the contracts, but at this stage of the pandemic he wants “all government ministers working really hard to get us through this”.
Hancock came under pressure after he was found to have acted unlawfully by handing out Covid-19 contracts without publishing details in a timely manner.
In a High Court ruling Mr Justice Chamberlain judged that he should have obeyed government transparency principles mandating the publication of details of contracts within 30 days.
“There is now no dispute that, in a substantial number of cases, the Secretary of State breached his legal obligation to publish Contract Award Notices within 30 days of the award of contracts,” it was found.
“The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020. The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.”
In a statement released after the judgement, the Good Law Project – fronted by barrister Jolyon Maugham QC – said: “When government eschews transparency, it evades accountability. Government’s behaviour came under criticism in the judgment.
“If it had admitted to being in breach of the law when we first raised our concerns, it would have never been necessary to take this judicial review to its conclusion. Instead, they chose a path of obfuscation, racking up over £200,000 of legal costs as a result.”
Calls for Hancock to resign were trending on Twitter yesterday afternoon. But Sir Keir didn’t feel the need to join them when quizzed by Ridge on Sky.
If this is opposition I’m a banana.— John Wight (@JohnWight1) February 21, 2021
The worst Covid death toll in Europe and Starmer can’t even call for the minister whose negligence and incompetence is responsible to resign.
The UK is now officially a one party state. https://t.co/XnSCiD0Y85
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