Her comments came as Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner accused Boris Johnson and his government of acting “like rules are for other people”, taking aim at the Prime Minister as well as Home Secretary Priti Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
So, who is Mordaunt, what are the Covid controversies Rayner accused the government of, and how did Mordaunt respond to her comments?
This is what happened in the Commons.
Who is Penny Mordaunt?
Mourdant is a Conservative politician who has served as the MP for Portsmouth North since 2010.
She currently serves in the Home Office as the Postmaster General, a ministerial position.
Prior to her role in Jonhson’s government, Mordaunt served in PM Theresa May's Cabinet as International Development Secretary from 2017 to 2019, and Defence Secretary in 2019.
Mordaunt was raised with her twin brother and younger brother by their former paratrooper father and their mother in Torquay, Devon.
She attended Oaklands Roman Catholic School Academy in Waterlooville, before taking a gap year to volunteer in orphanages in Romania. It is this experience that encouraged her to enter politics.
Mordaunt read Philosophy at the University of Reading, graduating in 1995. She was the first member of her family to attend university.
Following her graduation, she served as Head of Youth for the Conservative Party under John Major, before working for two years as Head of Broadcasting for party leader William Hague.
She first stood as an MP in the 2005 general election, losing out to a Labour candidate. However, she stood again in 2010 and won with a 7,289 (8.6 per cent) vote majority.
Throughout the Brexit negotiations she was the UK alternate co-chair of the EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee, as she supported Brexit.
What are the Covid controversies outlined by Rayner?
On 19 May, Labour’s Angela Rayner secured an urgent question on ministerial interests.
She asked “who does our government answer to? The public, or private interests?”
Rayner stated that the ministerial code “is clear there must be ‘no misuse of taxpayer money’ nor ‘actual or perceived conflicts of interest”
She then accused the Prime Minister, among others, of breaking rules and accepting private money for “sleazy jet trips”.
Rayner said: “Time and again ministers act like rules are for other people. None more so than the Prime Minister himself.
“Last year, he declared £15,000 from a Tory donor for his sleazy jet trip to a private island. This weekend, we read that the real cost was double that and paid by someone else entirely.
“People may ask why this is important. It is important because it goes to the very heart of our democracy.
She added: “We only learnt from the media that the Prime Minister has blocked publication of the independent Commissioner’s report.
Rayner also made claims that the ministerial code is not preventing “actual or perceived conflicts of interest”, taking aim at Home Secretary Priti Patel.
She added: “When the Home Secretary lobbies on behalf of a former adviser flogging sub-standard face masks, who lands a hundred-million-pound contract, without tender and double the going rate, who cannot perceive this as a conflict of interest?”
Rayner then made claims that the Health Secretary signed on an offer from a former Tory MP to the tune of £200 million of taxpayers’ money for a bid he didn’t look over.
She advised that an independent inquiry into the perceived wrongdoing must be pursued.
Rayner’s argument was upheld by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who called for a judge-led inquiry into lobbying, procurement and ministerial and civil service “conflicts” during the pandemic.
Cherry went further, urging for the inquiry to hold the power to order production of evidence and to take evidence on oath, as well as “the threat of appropriate sanctions for non-compliance and for perjury or equivocation.” Ms Cherry is a QC.
How did Mourdant respond to Rayner’s claims?
Mordaunt accused Rayner of “speculation, innuendo and smear,” telling the House Rayner had not backed her arguments with evidence.
She said: “In preparing for this urgent question today I had in my pack a list of the inquiries that are going on into one aspect or another and it ran to something like one-and-a-half pages.
“My personal view is I don’t think we need any more reviews. We have the Committee on Standards, we have the House authorities, we have the Boardman review, we have all these pieces of work looking at all of the issues that MPs have raised this afternoon.”
Mordaunt went on to address Rayner specifically, telling the House of Commons: “The charge [Rayner] makes is that the people she names are somehow on the take, that’s the charge she is making here today on the floor of the House.
She said her colleagues had “worked their socks off to save lives, to get a vaccination programme to do the things that the public need us to do”, dismissing claims they used their political platform to do “Tory mates” a favour.
She then launched an attack on Labour: ”I’m afraid this is why the Labour line of attack is not getting traction, well rehearsed though it is. It’s not getting traction with the public because it is not plausible. It is based not in fact, but on speculation, innuendo and smear.”
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