Michelle Mone: Conservative peer breaks silence over PPE Covid contracts scandal
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Michelle Mone has dramatically broken her silence over the PPE contracts scandal, insisting she has done nothing wrong. However, the Conservative peer and Scottish businesswoman admitted she had made an "error" by repeatedly denying she was linked to a firm awarded contracts worth £200 million during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lady Mone and her husband, Douglas Barrowman, only acknowledged their involvement in the company, PPE Medpro, last month following years of denial.
PPE Medpro is being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA). It is also being sued by the UK Government for £122m plus costs for "breach of contract and unjust enrichment".
Lady Mone has been accused of profiting from the firm winning contracts to supply surgical gowns and masks after she recommended it to ministers in the early days of the pandemic. Her husband was the chairman and leader of the PPE Medpro consortium.
In a new online documentary, which was funded by PPE Medpro, Lady Mone admitted she "may indirectly benefit" as Mr Barrowman’s wife, but insisted: “It's not my money."
She said the couple were "sick and tired of reading all the lies every single day in the media", and that she is struggling with her mental health. "I am a very, very strong woman," Lady Mone said. "I'm seeing a doctor and on medication and everything else, which I'm very against, but yeah, I needed it."
Asked if she will win the legal fight, she said: "Yeah, we will win, because we did nothing wrong, and it's cruel and it's nasty, but we will win." Lady Mone said the UK Government knew of her involvement in PPE Medpro.
Asked if she attempted to defraud the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), she said: "Absolutely not. How can I defraud them when they knew I was involved? There's over 1,400 emails and communication on WhatsApps and phone calls. How can they say they didn't know I was involved? They knew everything."
She said she put PPE Medpro forward, but those behind the firm "got the contracts on their own merits".
Lady Mone also denied any suggestion she received favourable treatment by the government because she is a baroness.
She said she was "a conduit" and "a liaison person", adding: "I brought it all together. I wanted the guys to succeed. I wanted the NHS to succeed. I wanted a win-win situation for everyone.
"Both myself and my husband declared our interest, and if they had any issue with that whatsoever, when they knew of my involvement and my husband's involvement, why did they ever give the contracts in the first place? They must have been satisfied, and they knew everything."
Lady Mone denied allegations by Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, that she was aggressive and threatening as she sought to help PPE Medpro win Covid contracts.
She said she had spoken to Mr Hancock about "a completely different subject", adding: "I can sometimes come across feisty. It's just part of me. But I'm certainly not aggressive, I wasn't abusive, and I think he's gotten that completely wrong. To be honest with you, I'm not a fan of his anyway."
Asked if she had lied or told untruths at any point during her communications with the government and the DHSC, she said: "Never, absolutely no. I didn't lie whatsoever. Why would I lie?"
Lady Mone said she did not know about the existence of a VIP lane for suppliers "until I read about it in the newspapers myself".
Put to her that she had lied to the press by saying she had no involvement in PPE Medpro, she said: "I made an error in what I said to the press. I regret not saying to the press straight away ‘yes, I am involved’, and the government knew I was involved, and the emergency Cabinet team knew I was involved. The government, DHSC knew that I was involved, the NHS, all of them knew I was involved. The legal team advised myself and my husband not to comment and not to say of my involvement in PPE Medpro.
"What I did say to them was ‘I'm not a shareholder’, which was true. I'm not a director, which was true, I am not financially benefiting directly, which is true. But I didn't want to start speaking to the press about it, and I didn't want the pain for my family again through the media."
Asked if she had benefited in any way from PPE Medpro money, either directly or indirectly, Lady Mone said: "Look, my husband's an entrepreneur. There were many entrepreneurs involved in PPE, supplying PPE.
"And the consortium he led supplied huge volumes at very competitive prices that saved the NHS tens of millions of pounds. What my husband decides to do after the event, and who benefits from that, is at his discretion. I am his wife and I may indirectly benefit, but that's just like all other families around that are married. That's just it. That is not my money. I don't have that money. It's not my money."
Lady Mone was made a life peer by David Cameron in 2015 after selling an 80 per cent stake in her Ultimo lingerie company. She took a leave of absence from the Lords in December last year following the PPE Medpro allegations.
Asked how she thinks people see her, she said: "Right now, I think they probably see me as a horrible person. A liar, a cheat, a thief. I think they've just made up their mind – on social media we have this kind of kangaroo court that everyone decides, and they've all made up their mind."