Bunzl: Yet another lobbying scandal

by Good Law Project

Bunzl: Yet another lobbying scandal

by Good Law Project
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Latest: Feb. 22, 2022

Government is trying to price us out

If you have a bottomless pit of money, you can break the law with impunity by making it too expensive for people to go to Court. We increasingly see conduct with that flavour from this Government &nd…

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It never stops.

Good Law Project has uncovered remarkable evidence that a Tory Minister brought a former Chair of the Tory Party, a man who now runs a lobbying firm, into the heart of Government to work on the massive multi-billion PPE procurement process. Having got his feet under the table that former Chair lobbied to win PPE contracts for at least one, and possibly a number, of clients of his lobbying firm.

The Tory Minister is Lord Bethell. The former Tory Party Chair is Lord Feldman - once described as David Cameron’s oldest and best friend - and he worked for Bethell from 23 March to 15 May 2020. And his huge lobbying firm is Tulchan, whose client list includes Bunzl Healthcare.

Bunzl was given a £22.6m PPE contract by the Department for Health without any competition in April 2020, smack bang in the middle of the period Feldman was working with Bethell. And we have also learned, from Government’s own documents, that:

  • Feldman was involved in the award of this contract. Bunzl had been removed from the Department for Health’s ‘approved suppliers list’ - and Feldman got them back on. An email from Feldman to Bunzl on 22 March 2020 states that he was acting as “an unpaid advisor to Matthew Hancock at the department of health...but that there have been some historic issues which mean that you have been removed from the approved suppliers list. I would like to remedy that as soon as possible”.

  • On the same day, he emailed Bunzl, copying in Andrew Wood whom he describes as “the person leading the accelerated procurement process in Cabinet Office” and said “I have spoken to him [Andy Wood] about Bunzl and the opportunity for you to supply the UK Government with equipment. He will be in touch”. 

  • And then, several days later, when Bunzl thought the deal was not progressing quickly enough, it asked Feldman to intervene - which he did. On 25 March Feldman wrote directly to the line manager of the official dealing with Bunzl, encouraging him to expedite the contract award process: “We need to move quickly”. 

 We fear these revelations just scratch the surface. We have seen Lord Feldman’s ‘Declarations of interest form’ and it contains a list of his other conflicts of interest. But Government has concealed these other names:

“some of our clients [Tulchan Communication LLP], as well as many other companies are offering assistance to the government during the covid-19 crisis. This includes [REDACTED], Bunzl, [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED]”. 

 
Government is refusing to confirm which other companies linked to Cameron’s oldest friend and his lobbying firm Tulchan Communications were introduced to Government and/or won public contracts.

In order to challenge this extraordinary abuse of power, we have launched formal Judicial Review proceedings. If you are in a position to do so, please consider donating.

The details:

We have instructed Joseph Barrett of 11KBW Chambers and Bindmans.  You can read the Judicial Review Bundle here.

10% of the sums raised will go to the Good Law Project to help it develop and support further litigation in the public interest. It is our policy only to raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. However, if there is a surplus it will go to support and enable other litigation we bring. 

 

 

Update 4

Good Law Project

Feb. 22, 2022

Government is trying to price us out

If you have a bottomless pit of money, you can break the law with impunity by making it too expensive for people to go to Court. We increasingly see conduct with that flavour from this Government – but nothing quite like this: Government has estimated it will spend a staggering £1.2 million defending a challenge from Good Law Project. We only expect the hearing to take one day and the facts are simple. When the case was stayed, the costs were about £30,000. They repeatedly refused to give us the estimates of their costs so we could apply for a cap. Then, they told us they had spent over £600,000 and were continuing to spend.

Our lawyers tell us it’s an unprecedented sum. The evidence is that costs incurred by the Government in judicial review proceedings rarely exceed £100,000. We are a small non-profit, funded by donations from members of the public. We cannot carry this kind of  risk, a fact the Government well knows. We can’t help but wonder whether killing us, or dissuading us from using the law, is the point of their spending. We have now applied for a cap but are on the hook for a vast sum if we don’t get one.

This particular case involves a former Conservative politician who runs for a lobbying company who was brought into the Department of Health and Social Care as an advisor, and pushed for one of his lobbying clients to win a huge PPE contract.

This latest example of the Government’s attempts to price us out of litigation shows just what we are up against in 2022. They are trying to make this the year the Empire strikes back. 

But we’re still here, and as long as we have the support of thousands of people up and down the country, we will keep going. 

We've applied for a Cost Capping Order (CCO), and there will be a hearing to deal with this application soon. We will update you on this as soon as we can. 

Update 3

Good Law Project

Nov. 22, 2021

Who else benefitted from links to Lord Feldman?

A month after Lord Feldman – who runs a lobbying company called Tulchan – was brought into the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) one of its clients, Bunzl, was awarded a £22.6m PPE contract. The evidence suggests Lord Feldman helped them get it. And in July, the High Court ruled that we could challenge that award.

From the start, we have been concerned that Bunzl might not have been the only company to benefit from Lord Feldman’s time at the DHSC. Since April, we have been asking for an explanation of his dealings with the companies named in his conflict of interests form. DHSC has resisted giving answers but insisted there was nothing, or no more, to see.

This week we learned the names of the 50 companies in the Government’s VIP Lane – and who had referred them. Lord Feldman was named as the “actual referrer” of three companies, who together were awarded contracts worth over £60 million. Lord Feldman has denied having any “commercial” relationship with the companies or their owners, but he has not explained how he came to “refer” them to the DHSC. 

It is also not clear to us how these three referrals fit within the evidence provided to date by the DHSC (and by Lord Feldman himself). Or what he means when he denies a “commercial” relationship.

We have written to the Government’s lawyers asking for an explanation.

Update 2

Good Law Project

Sept. 27, 2021

Hearing now scheduled

As explained in our last update, we have been granted permission to proceed with this judicial review on three out of our four proposed grounds. We are asking the Court to reconsider its refusal of permission in relation to the fourth and final ground; a hearing on that point has now been scheduled for 11 November 2021, following which we will provide a further update. Thank you for your continued support.

Update 1

Good Law Project

Aug. 4, 2021

We're going to Court

Forget about Greensill. Only last year, a Minister brought a former Chair of the Tory Party, a man who now runs a lobbying firm, into the heart of Government to work on PPE procurement. Having got his feet under the table that former Chair lobbied to win PPE contracts for at least one, and possibly a number of, clients of his lobbying firm.

The Tory Minister is Lord Bethell. The former Tory Party Chair is Lord Feldman – once described as David Cameron’s oldest and best friend – who worked for Bethell from 23 March to 15 May 2020. And his huge lobbying firm is Tulchan, whose client list includes Bunzl Healthcare.

Bunzl was given a £22.6m PPE contract by the Department for Health without any competition in April 2020, smack bang in the middle of the period Feldman was working with Bethell. And we now know that:

  • Feldman was involved in the award of this contract. Bunzl had been removed from the Department for Health’s ‘approved suppliers list’ – and Feldman got them back on. An email from Feldman to Bunzl on 22 March 2020 states that he was acting as “an unpaid advisor to Matthew Hancock at the department of health…but that there have been some historic issues which mean that you have been removed from the approved suppliers list. I would like to remedy that as soon as possible”.
  • On the same day, he emailed Bunzl, copying in Andrew Wood whom he describes as “the person leading the accelerated procurement process in Cabinet Office” and said “I have spoken to him [Andy Wood] about Bunzl and the opportunity for you to supply the UK Government with equipment. He will be in touch”.
  • And then, several days later, when Bunzl thought the deal was not progressing quickly enough, it asked Feldman to intervene – which he did. On 25 March Feldman wrote directly to the line manager of the official dealing with Bunzl, encouraging him to expedite the contract award process: “We need to move quickly”.

We brought judicial review proceedings and we are pleased to tell you that the High Court has granted us permission to bring our judicial review on the first three of our Grounds (breach of the duties of transparency and equal treatment, apparent bias, and breach of the Defendant’s own policies in respect of conflicts of interest). You can see its decision here.

On the fourth ground, which concerns other Lord Feldman conflicts of interest, the Court refused permission but we are ‘renewing’ our request before the High Court.

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