LABOUR’S KNICKERS IN A TWIST OVER BRA QUEEN MONE’S PPE CONTRACTS

Baroness Michelle Mone
Michelle Mone became a peer in 2015.

By Democrat reporter

Baroness Michelle Mone will take a leave of absence from the House of Lords following a Covid contracts scandal.
Matt Hancock was health secretary at the height of the pandemic. He told the Commons today (Wednesday) that he was quitting as an MP.

The House of Lords commissioner for standards is investigating her “alleged involvement” in procuring contracts for the company.

However, the commissioner says he is unable to finalise or publish his report because “the matter is under investigation by the police or another agency of a criminal investigation”.

Properties linked to the company have previously been searched by the National Crime Agency.

Between May and June 2020, PPE Medpro was awarded two government contracts worth £203 million to supply masks and medical gowns.

Emails released under Freedom of Information laws show Baroness Mone referring the company to a government minister during the pandemic.

Last month, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, left,  accused the government of a “total failure of due diligence” and a “conflict of interest” in awarding the contracts to PPE Medpro.

She was responding to an investigation in the Guardian based on leaked documents that alleged Baroness Mone had financially benefited from the company.

She told MPs it appeared “tens of millions of pounds” from the money awarded to the company “ended up in offshore accounts connected to the individuals involved”.

At a Commons debate on Tuesday, Labour will try to force ministers to release “all papers, advice, and correspondence” about the government contracts awarded to PPE Medpro.

Asked in December 2020 about reports she was linked to the company, Baroness Mone’s lawyers told BBC News she “had no role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process by which contracts were awarded to PPE Medpro”.

In December 2020, BBC News reported that millions of medical gowns the firm supplied, worth £122m, had never been used.

A Democrat contact who works in the NHS said: “You can’t find a space in in the hospitals. All the cupboards are packed to over-flowing with PPE that will never see the light of day.  They are not needed and they won’t ever be used. It’s a complete waste of public money.”

PPE Medpro said at the time that it had delivered 100% of the contract to the terms specified and that it had supplied equipment “fully in accordance with the agreed contract, which included clear terms as to technical specification and performance criteria of the products”.

The Department of Health and Social Care has since been in mediation with the firm over what it has described as an “under-performing contract” and last month MPs were told that no “satisfactory agreement” had been reached at this stage.

Ministers to release records relating to PPE firm deals linked to Mone

The vote tonight followed reports suggesting Glasgow-born Baroness Mone may have profited from PPE Medpro winning public contracts worth more than £200 million to supply personal protective equipment after she recommended it to ministers in the early days of the pandemic.

Labour presented a “humble address” motion to force a binding Commons vote to secure the release of documents relating to the deals to the Public Accounts Committe.

The UK Goverment tonight said the records would be released to the commmittee once inquiries on the matter had been completed.

Leading the debate Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner called on the government to “end the cover-up and begin the clean-up” in relation to PPE contracts.

She told the Commons: “The motion before the House is very simple: this is a plea for answers, a plea for clarity and a plea for the truth.

“The choice that the House makes today is simple too: our demand is clear – end the cover-up and begin the clean-up.

“We already know that the so-called VIP lane for PPE enabled the shameful waste of taxpayers’ money and inexcusable profiteering by unfit and unqualified providers.

“We know that the Government has already written off £10 billion of public funds spent on their PPE that was either unusable, overpriced or undelivered.

“Ministers have admitted that they are still paying £770,000 a day of taxpayers’ cash to store gloves, goggles and gowns. £106,000 of that money is sent to China every day alone to pay for the storage costs.”

Concluding her speech, Ms Rayner told the Commons: “Put simply, a vote for this motion is a vote in favour of the truth.

“This Government has presided over scandal after scandal that has engulfed their party. They appear to have benefited from dodgy lobbying left, right and centre.

“Voting today for yet another cover-up will send another very clear message that this Prime Minister cares more about protecting vested interests than putting things right, that his own promise of integrity, professionalism and accountability is just more hot air.

“It’s about time members opposite got with the programme. So I say today, and I hope the benches opposite are listening: let’s end the cover-up, and begin the clean-up.”

The government did not oppose the Labour motion.

Health minister Will Quince said the government had to act fast to get so much PPE at good value during the early days of the pandemic.

“Colleagues will recall those early days. Planes turned around on the tarmac, countries imposing export bans, a huge inflation in global prices and the price of crucial items like gloves increasing six-fold.

“These were the conditions under which tough decisions were taken. These were the decisions under which PPE was procured. And these were the conditions under which we stepped up to protect our most vulnerable and save lives.”

During his speech he said the Government will release records relating to the award of contracts to PPE Medpro when investigations have finished.

He told the Commons: “The Government is committed to releasing information when all investigations are concluded.

“Our response will necessarily take into account the wider public interest and the commercially sensitive nature of the material.

“It is only right that we work with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the terms on which information might be shared, and I understand the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will soon begin a dialogue with the chair of the PAC on how we enact those information-sharing arrangements.”

Mr Quince concluded his speech, saying: “We have learned many lessons from this pandemic and when it comes to PPE we are in a stronger footing today than ever before.

“But the successes of our enormous national efforts at a time of unprecedented national crisis deserve to be recognised. People from all walks of life came together to protect people in the NHS and social care and in doing so, they saved lives. Even as we continue to learn and build a system fit for the future, this Government will remain enormously proud of everything that was achieved.”

Earlier Lady Mone announced she was to take a “leave of absence” from the House of Lords in order “to clear her name” over allegations.  Last week, the Guardian reported that she and her children received £29m from the profits of the company.  She reportedly helped the company secure a place in the “VIP lane” used by the government during the pandemic.

The Lords standards watchdog has launched an investigation into Baroness Mone, appointed a peer by David Cameron in 2015, over her alleged involvement in procuring contracts for the firm.

That inquiry has been paused due to a separate investigation by the National Crime Agency into PPE Medpro.

In April this year, NCA officers searched several addresses, including the mansion Lady Mone and her husband Douglas Barrowman occupy in the Isle of Man. At the time, lawyers for PPE Medpro declined to comment on the NCA investigation.

The peer 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”.

Her 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.

Former UK health secretary Matt Hancock accused the former lingerie tycoon of “extraordinarily aggressive” lobbying in support of a Covid contract for another firm that made lateral flow tests.

He said the peer sent him a “threatening” message, complaining the firm had not secured a deal.

The claims were made in his new book, the Pandemic Diaries.

Mr Hancock said by the end of her email she had “worked herself into a complete frenzy”.

One comment

  1. Mone is but the tip of a very big iceberg.

    Sweetheart gold tipped public contracts is most certainly the Tory way. It’s what they do. It’s in the blood.

    Mind you, in the SNP and Labour controlled councils across Scotland there’s more than a few gladhanded procurement deals on the go. Compromised tender award, top up payments, it’s all there. Whilst all the while the little people stump up.

    It’s a sin is it no!

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