Home > Local News > Halo Trust landmine clearing contract ruling risks jobs

Halo Trust landmine clearing contract ruling risks jobs

A Scots landmine clearance charity is facing job losses after losing a court row over a £3.5m government contract.
The
Dumfriesshire-based Halo Trust mounted a legal challenge at London’s
High Court after losing out to Mines Advisory Group (MAG), from
Manchester.
It claimed the move by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell breached procurement rules.
High Court judge Mr Justice Akenhead called Halo’s challenge “relatively weak” and refused to block the award.
The deal is now due to be finalised on 1 February.
The
ruling was a blow to Halo, which employs about 1,000 people on mine
clearance work in Cambodia, more than 400 of whom are now at risk of
losing their jobs.
The judge said: “It is perhaps
unfortunate that a well-known charity such as Halo finds itself coming
to court in effect to prevent another charity from proceeding with
worthwhile work, albeit that part of its motivation is clearly to seek
to preserve its mine clearance workforce.”

Start Quote

Nothing which I have said in this
judgment should in any way be taken as meaning or implying any
criticism of either organisation for the work which they have done in
that regard and will continue to do”

End Quote
Mr Justice Akenhead

Halo’s
barrister, Mark Clough QC, had accused Mr Mitchell of fostering a
“misguided” policy to link mine clearance in Cambodia to wider
development objectives and breaching “principles of transparency and
equal treatment”.
He argued that, had procurement rules
been properly followed, it was “highly likely” that Halo would have won
the contract over MAG, which also has a substantial presence in
Cambodia.
However, refusing to block the contract
award, Mr Justice Akenhead described Mr Mitchell’s policy as “a worthy
one” and said the trust’s arguments were “at the weak end of the
spectrum” and did not raise “serious issues to be tried”.
The
judge said he hoped Halo staff who lost their jobs would be able to
move to MAG and that Halo could find alternative funding to continue
its good work in Cambodia.
He concluded: “There can be
no doubt… that both Halo and MAG have been doing extremely worthwhile
work in Cambodia in connection with the clearance of landmines and
other ordnance.
“Nothing which I have said in this
judgment should in any way be taken as meaning or implying any
criticism of either organisation for the work which they have done in
that regard and will continue to do.”
A Department for
International Development spokesperson said it was delighted the UK
could continue its demining work in Cambodia.
“As the
judge has recognised, the contract was awarded following an open and
competitive tender under standard UK procurement rules,” he said.
“In
addition to their ability to clear mines and ordnance, the
organisations were measured against plans to help communities recover
from the devastating effects of mines.”
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