Baroness Michelle Mone: Tory peer to take ‘leave of absence’ from House of Lords amid PPE Medpro scandal
Reports last week claimed that Baroness Michelle Mone and her children received £29million in profits from PPE Medpro, after getting a government contract through the ‘VIP lane’.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Tory peer Baroness Michelle Mone is taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords to “clear her name” over allegations over PPE contracts.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, Baroness Mone and her children secretly received £29million from the profits of a PPE company that was awarded large government contracts after she allegedly recommended it to ministers.
Reports – denied by the peer – have suggested the peer may have profited from PPE Medpro winning public contracts worth more than £200 million to supply equipment after in the early days of the pandemic. The largest part of the order, about 25m surgical gowns, was deemed unfit for purpose. Baroness Mone has not made any record of links to PPE Medpro in the House of Lords register, where peers have to declare conflicts of interest.
The news emerged as Labour prepared to force the Government to release records relating to the award of contracts to PPE Medpro. The peer, who founded lingerie firm Ultimo, claims the accusations have been “unjustly” levelled against her.
A statement released by her office said: “With immediate effect, Baroness Mone will be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her.”
The leave of absence means Lady Mone will not attend sittings of the House, vote on any proceedings, and will not be able to claim any allowance. Labour will present a humble address motion later on Tuesday to force a binding Commons vote to secure the release of documents relating to the contracts.
Tory MPs are not expected to be ordered to oppose the motion, which will require the details of the contracts to be handed to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
The Lords standards watchdog is investigating Baroness Mone over her alleged involvement in procuring contracts for PPE Medpro, although this has been paused “while the matter is under investigation by the police or another agency as part of a criminal investigation”. HSBC reportedly froze the bank accounts of Baroness Mone and her husband Douglas Barrowman and referred them to the National Crime Agency, during an investigation that examined possible corruption in securing government contracts.
Lady Mone has consistently denied any “role or function” in the company, and her lawyers have previously said she is “not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity”. The Government has also come under fire for the use of “VIP lanes”, whereby preferential treatment for public contracts can be given to organisations recommended by MPs and peers.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has accused members of the Tory party of using the pandemic as an “opportunity” to “get rich”. She said on the Today Programme that companies like PPE Medpro were recommended during the pandemic by Tory ministers, MPs and peers, and given “fast track” and “preferential treatment”.
She described the so-called VIP lane as “a scandal of epic proportions”. She said that the company was awarded a £122 million contract for gowns that “could not be used” and that £700,000 of “taxpayers’ money” a day is now being wasted on storing the unusable PPE. The company has denied that the kit was faulty.
Rayner added: “This looks very dodgy – people making huge sums of money on PPE that couldn’t be used. It needs to be exposed now. Those documents need to come out and it needs to be out in the open.”
Following Baroness Mone announcing a “leave of abscence”, Rayner said: “The Tories are all out of excuses. Ministers must now set out clear timelines on when, where, and how this information will be released.
“They can’t keep taking the public for fools by refusing to come clean on what they knew about this dodgy deal. Rishi Sunak was too weak to remove the whip, and has left it to Baroness Mone to finally read the writing on the wall.”