Wednesday 9 June 2021 / 2:13 PM Angela Rayner

Labour demands investigation into Ministerial Code breach over unlawful Michael Gove contract 

Labour demands investigation into Ministerial Code breach over unlawful Michael Gove contract 

 Rayner demands government recoups taxpayers’ money unlawfully handed out to Conservative Party friends and associates  

Following the court ruling that the government acted unlawfully when it awarded a contract to a company run by Conservative Party figures who have close relationships with Michael Gove, Labour has demanded an investigation into whether Mr Gove has breached the Ministerial Code.  

Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster Angela Rayner MP has written to the Prime Minister arguing that the judge’s ruling that a “fair minded and informed observer” would conclude that there was a “real possibility, or a real danger” of bias in the awarding of this contract to associates and close friends of Mr Gove represents a “clear case of the Ministerial Code being breached”. 

 Rayner’s letter also demands that the Prime Minister recoups the taxpayers’ money that the government has “handed out unlawfully to Conservative Party friends and associates at Public First”. 

Pointing to the fact that the government’s legal fees defending the case were predicted to cost more than the value of the contract, Rayner asked the Prime Minister to explain why the government is spending “hundreds of thousands of pounds on lawyers in an effort to cover up the government breaking the law” whilst investing less than £1 per child per day in a catch-up plan to help our country’s children recover. 

ENDS 

  

Notes to Editors:

Full text of letter below 

Dear Prime Minister  

I am writing to you regarding the judgement of Mrs Justice O’Farrell in the hearing before the Royal Courts of Justice regarding the awarding of a contract to Public First worth £564,393. 

 As you will be aware, the court ruled that the decision by the Cabinet Office to award the contract to Public First was unlawful and “gave rise to apparent bias”, in light of the longstanding and close personal and professional connections between the Directors of Public First and Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office.


It is a matter of public record that Public First’s Rachel Wolf, James Frayne and Gabriel Milland have all worked with Mr Gove and have a personal relationship with Mr Gove. 

The court concluded that a “fair minded and informed observer” would conclude that “there was a real possibility, or a real danger, that the decision-maker was biased” in the awarding of this contract without tender, competition or the consideration of any other research agency. 

The Ministerial Code, which Mr Gove is supposed to be the guardian of as Minister for the Cabinet Office, is clear on these matters. Point 7.1 states “Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests”. 

 In this case, a judge has ruled that a “fair minded and informed observer” would conclude that there was a “real possibility, or a real danger” of bias in the awarding of this contract to associates and close friends of Mr Gove. 

 On this basis, this appears to be a clear case of the Ministerial Code being breached. I would urge you, in line with the terms of reference for the independent adviser on Ministers’ Interests, to instruct the independent adviser to investigate whether the Minister for the Cabinet Office has breached the Ministerial Code. 

I would also urge you to set out what steps you are taking to recoup the taxpayers’ money that your government has handed out unlawfully to Conservative Party friends and associates at Public First. 

In February, the Government Legal Department stated that its costs for defending this case council reach £600,000, more than the original contract was worth. What is the total amount of taxpayers’ money that the government has spent trying to cover up the fact that your government acted unlawfully in awarding this contract? When the government is investing less than £1 per child per day in a catch-up plan to help our country’s children, why is the government spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on lawyers in an effort to cover up the government breaking the law? 

Yours Sincerely   

Rt Hon Angela Rayner MP 

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party 

Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster