The former UK health secretary 맷 핸콕 did not comply with a public sector equality duty when he appointed the Conservative peer Dido Harding as head of a new public health quango, the high court has ruled.
The race and equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust successfully won its claim against the government over the appointment in August 2020 of Harding as interim executive chair of the National Institute for 건강 Protection, as well as the appointment in September 2020 of Mike Coupe as director of testing at NHS test and trace.
Two judges granted a declaration to the Runnymede Trust on Tuesday after considering arguments at a high court hearing in December.
The campaign group the Good Law Project had joined the trust in making complaints – arguing the government had not adopted an “open” process when making appointments to posts “critical to the pandemic response”.
하나, judges dismissed the claim by the Good Law Project.
Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Swift concluded that Hancock had not complied with “the public sector equality duty” in relation to the appointments.
Lawyers representing the Runnymede Trust and Good Law Project suggested that people “outside the tight circle” in which senior Conservative politicians and their friends moved were not being given opportunities. They said an unfair policy was being challenged.
Ministers disputed the claims made against them.
Jason Coppel QC, who led the two organisations’ legal teams, told Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Swift that the challenge was based on equality legislation and public law.
He said the government had a “policy or practice” of “making appointments to posts critical to the pandemic response” without adopting any, or any sufficient, “fair or open competitive processes”.
Coppel said people “less likely to be known or connected to decision-makers” were put at a disadvantage.
He also said the government was failing to offer “remuneration for high-level full-time roles” and “excluding all candidates who were not already wealthy” or held other posts for which they would continue to be paid.
In a written ruling, Singh and Swift said: “It is the process leading up to the two decisions which has been found by this court to be in breach of the public sector equality duty.
“For those reasons we will grant a declaration to the Runnymede Trust that the secretary of state for health and social care did not comply with the public sector equality duty in relation to the decisions how to appoint Baroness Harding as interim executive chair of the NIHP in August 2020 and Mr Coupe as director of testing for NHSTT in September 2020.”
In a joint statement, Dr Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, and Sir Clive Jones, the chair of Runnymede’s board of trustees, 말했다: “Neither Baroness Harding nor Mr Coupe is medically trained. Neither has a lifetime of public administration under their belt. It should not be acceptable to drop our standards during complex health emergencies when countless lives are at stake, in particular the lives of some of our country’s most vulnerable citizens.”
It added: “This judgment sends a strong message to the government that it needs to take its obligations to reduce inequality far more seriously. It also serves as an unequivocal reminder that all future public appointments must give due consideration to equalities legislation.”