Campaign group loses High Court bid over Government antibody test contract award

A legal campaign group has lost a High Court challenge against the Government over millions of pounds worth of antibody test contracts.

The Good Law Project brought legal action against the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), claiming that three deals for antibody lateral flow tests (LFT) were awarded to Abingdon Health unlawfully in April, June and August 2020.

“The contracts were awarded directly, and secretly, without any advertisement or competition,” the Good Law Project’s barrister Joseph Barrett previously argued in written submissions.

However, in a judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Waksman dismissed the group’s claim, finding there was no “apparent bias”.

He said: “I do not consider that there was any significant support or assistance that could in any way suggest that DHSC was favouring Abingdon as opposed to other potential suppliers which could amount to apparent bias.”

The judge also said: “It is far from clear that there would have been any other supplier who had at least the potential to deliver the antibody LFTs at that time who would have been prepared to contract on the particularly flexible terms (for DHSC) given by Abingdon.”

The Good Law Project had also argued that DHSC had discriminated based on nationality and unlawfully prioritised Abingdon Health because it is a British company.

However, Mr Justice Waksman said: “I cannot see why a policy which favours a company with a base in the UK, whether incorporated here or not, which had the facility to develop and manufacture some or all of the necessary tests was not plainly justified on the grounds of public health.”

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