Monday 18 December 2023

Michelle Mone should be barred from the Lords after PPE scandal, minister says


Michelle Mone should be barred from the Lords after PPE scandal, minister says


Labour has called on Michael Gove to answer questions over his own role in the awarding of a £200m contract to PPE Medpro


Archie Mitchell

1 hour ago


Michelle Mone should be barred from the House of Lords after she admitted standing to benefit from £60million in profit over a PPE contract signed at the height of the Covid crisis, a Tory minister has said.


The Tory peer said on Sunday she was “sorry” for denying her links to PPE Medpro, which was awarded government contracts worth more than £200 million to supply personal protective equipment after she recommended it to ministers.


But a defiant Baroness Mone said: “I don’t honestly see there is a case to answer. I can’t see what we have done wrong.”


On Monday, energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan said she should not return to the House of Lords, saying “she has to speak for herself” and he “would hope that she would see sense”.


“I would hope that she would not be coming back to the House of Lords,” Lord Callanan added.


Baroness Mone has been on a leave of absence from the Lords for more than a year as she bids to “clear her name” over the scandal.


But the disastrous interview, with the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, saw her facing renewed criticism over the PPE scandal.


Lord Callanan told Sky News: “I watched the interview yesterday – I think she should have declared her involvement in that in the House of Lords register, and there is guidance available for that.”


Baroness Mone claimed her life had been “destroyed” by allegations about their PPE profits, even though “we’ve only done one thing, which was lie to the press to say we weren’t involved”.


Rishi Sunak said he takes the scandal surrounding Baroness Mone “incredibly seriously” but refused to comment further.


Asked about her admission she had lied about her involvement in the firm PPE Medpro, the prime minister told reporters during a trip to Scotland: “The Government takes these things incredibly seriously, which is why we’re pursuing legal action against the company concerned in these matters.


“That’s how seriously I take it and the Government takes it.


“But it is also subject to an ongoing criminal investigation. And because of that, there’s not much further that I can add.”


And Labour is also piling pressure on the government over the scandal, after Baroness Mone named Michael Gove as the minister she spoke to in the interview.


Referring to Mr Gove, then chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, she said: “I just said, ‘We can help, and we want to help.’ And he was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is amazing’.”


Shadow Cabinet Office minister Nick Thomas-Symonds has called on Mr Gove to answer questions following her claim.


In a letter to Mr Gove, he said: “This series of events has led to civil litigation and a National Crime Agency investigation. Yet these ongoing matters should not preclude you from addressing questions about your own involvement and the role of the Government.


“Events so far expose a shocking recklessness by the Conservative government with regard to public money, and a sorry tale of incompetence in relation to the so-called ‘VIP Lane’ for procurement during the pandemic.”


Baroness Mone, the Ultimo bra tycoon made a peer by Lord Cameron in 2015, has been at the centre of controversy over so-called “VIP lane” contracts.


She has repeatedly denied that she had profited from the deal, which she first discussed with government ministers including Mr Gove.


Baroness Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman on Sunday admitted that a 30 per cent profit had been made on the contract, around £60 million.


But she denied she had bought a yacht with the money and insisted the cash was her husband’s money.


“It’s not my yacht, It’s not my money,” she said. “That cash is my husband’s cash, it’s just like my dad going home with his wage packet on a Friday night and giving it to my mum. So she’s benefiting from that as well, but that cash is not my cash and is not my children’s cash. If one day, God forbid, my husband passes away before me then I am a beneficiary as well as his children and my children.”


The astonishing interview came days after Baroness Mone appeared to fight back tears in a film about the case – funded by the company at the centre of the scandal. Two leading experts who appeared in the film have since come forward to say they would not have taken part had they been told its focus or funding.

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