The ‘Operation Moonshot’, Government’s grand plan to develop a rapid turnaround testing programme, has predictably fizzled out into a damp squib.
In response to legal action by Good Law Project, Dale Vince, AI Diagnostics, and EveryDoctor, the Government has quietly agreed that ‘Operation Moonshot’ will be absorbed into the existing Test and Trace programme. They have also abandoned plans to spend £100 billion, a figure first revealed in the Government’s own leaked documents, on the project.
It’s a far cry from Boris Johnson’s grandstanding in Parliament just a matter of weeks ago and more proof of the mess this Government is making of the UK’s testing programme.
But call it what you like - ‘Operation Moonshot’ or Test and Trace - the Government continues to refuse to answer some really rather basic questions we have been asking for some weeks about their plans for a mass testing programme. Our lawyers have written to Government yet again to press for
- Why were contracts for this programme awarded without any advertisement or competitive tender process?
- Why did the Government fail to consult their own experts, the National Screening Committee over the plans for rapid testing?
- Will tests delivered by ‘Operation Moonshot’ be free of charge, or will the public be forced to pay, as suggested by Head of Test and Trace Dido Harding?
Unless we get satisfactory answers we will, have no doubt, issue proceedings.
The basic problems with Operation Moonshot - and they are universal to everything this Government procures - are around transparency and accountability. Government is treating the taxpayer as the enemy, not entitled to know why and with whom these vast sums are being spent. We believe that is wrong - we believe it is accountable to the taxpayer for these vast sums - and we will do whatever we can to deliver that accountability.
Jolyon Maugham QC
Director of Good Law Project