Matt Hancock could be forced to reveal names of politicians behind “VIP” Covid-19 contract bids after officials blocked them out.
A High Court judge is set to rule next week whether the Health Secretary must identify MPs, ministers and Tory associates who fast-tracked firms that won £1.7billion of contracts when the pandemic first hit.
In a case brought by campaign group Good Law Project, black lines were drawn over names of those who recommended firms and decided who got what.
Normal competition rules were suspended as the Government raced for PPE and ventilators.
It led to what one lawyer in the Good Law Project described as a “red carpet to riches” for friends of ministers and MPs.
Papers given to the High Court hearing show Covid procurement teams were “drowning in VIP requests and High Priority Contacts”, many of which were not backed up by the correct certification or “due diligence”.
Lawyers have also protested that documents submitted in Mr Hancock’s defence do not include text or WhatsApp messages, file notes or submissions to ministers.
The judge, Mrs Justice Finola O’Farrell, indicated the identity of individuals should be made public if they had a significant role in the VIP decision making.
Many offers came from firms with no experience in making PPE and no qualification other than a nod from a Tory pal in high places.
One official dealing with an offer to produce visors early in the pandemic complained that other offers of help were being held up by the VIP fast-track bids.
The average contract value for VIP winners was £36million.
A National Audit Office report last year suggested VIP bids were 10 times more likely to be successful if they had backing from someone in Government.
Shadow Cabinet minister Rachel Reeves said it was “shocking” names were hidden.
No10 said the fast-lane process provided the “greatest chance” of speedy support in supplies of PPE when the NHS needed it most.