Covid contracts were “on the record for everyone to see”

Boris Johnson, House of Commons

February 22, 2021

Facts

After the High Court ruled that the government acted unlawfully when the department of health failed to publish award notices within 30 days of them being signed for contracts it had agreed during the Covid pandemic, Boris Johnson told MPs that the Covid contracts were “on the record for everyone to see”. The High Court also found the health secretary had acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the government's own policy of publishing the contracts within 20 days of them being awarded.

Challenged about the ruling in the House of Commons on 22 February, Mr Johnson said: "All the details are on the record."

The Prime Minister added: "The contracts are there on the record for everybody to see."

At the time of Johnson’s remark, a High Court ruling confirmed that 100 contracts were left unpublished.

The Department of Health has claimed Mr Johnson was referring not to contracts, but to "Contract award notices (CANs)" - which they say had all been published at the time.

The Prime Minister was not asked about CANs, nor did he refer to CANs in his answer.

MPs Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran wrote to Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, asking him to investigate these claims made by the Prime Minister. They said that it was clear "that the Prime Minister had falsely reassured MPs about the number of contracts that had been published."

"We would therefore be grateful if you would investigate this as a breach of the Ministerial Code."

The Cabinet Secretary responded, but sidestepped the request to investigate whether the Ministerial Code has been breached by pointing out that it is not the Cabinet Secretary’s responsibility to enforce the code.

Verdict

Johnson’s claim that Covid contracts were “on the record for everyone to see” was a shameless lie about a matter of grave public interest. Even if he genuinely believed at the time he was telling the truth, he has not come to the Commons to correct the record, as the rules demand. Mr Johnson’s lie remains on the Hansard record in defiance of the Ministerial Code

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