Government wins appeal to overturn High Court ruling over firm with links to Dominic Cummings

Last year, the High Court ruled that the Cabinet Office’s decision to award a contract to market research firm Public First was unlawful as it gave rise to “apparent bias”.

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The Government has won its Court of Appeal bid to overturn a ruling that a contract given to a company whose founders were friends of former adviser Dominic Cummings was unlawful.

Last year, the High Court ruled that the Cabinet Office’s decision to award a contract to market research firm Public First was unlawful as it gave rise to “apparent bias”.

The organisation was given a contract for over £550,000 in June 2020 for focus groups and other research – including testing public health slogans such as “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”.

Campaigning organisation the Good Law Project brought a case over the links between the firm’s founders and the Prime Minister’s former adviser as well as then-Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove.

In the original ruling, Mrs Justice O’Farrell found that the “apparent bias” was not due to the existing relationships between Mr Cummings and Public First but because of a failure to consider any other research agency and record the objective criteria used in the selection.

However, in a judgment on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal overturned the previous ruling.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Coulson and Lady Justice Carr, found that the original judgment was an “unprecedented outcome”.

Lord Burnett concluded: “The fair-minded and reasonably informed observer would not have concluded that a failure to carry out a comparative exercise of the type identified by the judge created a real possibility that the decision-maker was biased.”