The Divisional Court (Singh LJ and Foxton J) has dismissed claims for judicial review of the government’s support for the sale of the collapsed energy firm Bulb.
The claims were brought by British Gas, E.On and Scottish Power. They concerned the sale of the business of Bulb Energy Limited (Bulb) to Octopus Energy Group Limited (Octopus). Bulb was an energy supplier which had been placed in energy supply company administration in 2021. Its administration was funded by the Government and conducted by court-appointed administrators.
The Claimants’ fundamental complaint concerned financial support from the Secretary of State for the transaction. The Claimants contended that the Secretary of State’s decisions to approve the transaction and to provide financial support for it were unlawful both under conventional public law principles, and because they conferred unlawful subsidies contrary to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
At a ‘rolled-up’ judicial review hearing, the Court refused permission for the claims under section 31(6)(a) of the Senior Courts Act 198, on the basis that the Claimants had unduly delayed in bringing their claims.
The Court nonetheless went on to address the claims’ merits, concluding that:
a. permission for the public law grounds would have been refused in any event, as they were not reasonably arguable; and
b. the subsidy control grounds under the TCA, while arguable, would have been rejected on their merits.
The judgment can be found here.
Jason Coppel KC and Patrick Halliday acted for the Secretary of State, instructed by the Government Legal Department and Hogan Lovells.