Labor is calling for an investigation into the conduct and honesty of conservative colleague Michelle Mone after she repeatedly denied any association with a PPE (personal protective equipment) company and has since been found to have recommended the government.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) recently revealed that Lady Mone has referred the company, PPE Medpro Ltd, as a potential supplier during the coronavirus pandemic. It then became a high-priority “VIP” fast-track job for companies with political connections before landing two contracts, for face masks and gowns, worth a total of £203 million.
Founded on May 12 last year, PPE Medpro was managed and boarded by Knox House Trust (KHT), a business services firm in the Isle of Man run by Mone’s husband, Douglas Barrowman.
In an extensive correspondence spanning over six weeks last year, The Guardian repeatedly asked Mone about her connection to PPE Medpro. She was also asked if she had spoken to government officials about the company.
Meanwhile, PPE Medpro was asked if anyone involved with the company had discussions with colleagues as part of its approach to government.
In their replies, neither Mone nor PPE Medpro revealed that they had referred the company to Lord Agnew, a cabinet minister.
At the time of the correspondence, Mone’s lawyers repeatedly denied that she had any connection or association with the company, or played any role in securing the contracts.
One of the comments stated that Mone and Barrowman “never had any role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process of awarding contracts to PPE Medpro”. Her lawyers said Mone was “in no way affiliated with PPE Medpro” and added that “any suggestion of a connection” between their client and PPE Medpro “would be both inaccurate and misleading”.
The attorneys also said that “with reference to the ‘high-priority lane’ … any suggestion that either [Mone or Barrowman] played any role in the processing of Medpro’s PPE contract would be completely inaccurate and misleading.”
Last week, however, the DHSC revealed that Mone had played a seemingly pivotal role in the process, making the first recommendation to Agnew.
After her referral, Agnew recommended the company take the “VIP” job for companies referred by ministers, MPs or colleagues. At the time, the government awarded contracts with no competitive tender under Covid’s emergency ordinances. Companies referred to the VIP row 10 times are more likely to get a contract, according to a report from the National Audit Office.
Angela Rayner, deputy Labor leader, called on the government – or the cabinet secretary if the government refused – to publish all correspondence, documents, meeting minutes and notes related to all contracts awarded through the VIP process.
Rayner said: “There are serious questions for Baroness Mone to answer as to whether she was telling the truth when she said she had no part in awarding £200 million in taxpayer money to PPE Medpro. Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party also have serious questions about Baroness Mone’s position if it turns out she lied about her role in these contracts and the VIP fast track lane.
“If Baroness Mone was not telling the truth about her role in these contracts, then clearly she has not followed the Nolan Principles and there are further questions about whether she has violated the House of Lords code of conduct. Baroness Mone should refer herself to the Commissioners of the House of Lords for investigation if she is sure she has done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide.”
The code of conduct for members of the House of Lords states that they must “abide by the seven general principles of conduct established by the Committee on Standards in Public Life”, the so-called Nolan Principles. These include integrity, accountability, openness and honesty, and a positive leadership duty, which requires members to “actively promote and vigorously support the Principles.”
Mone’s role in the process was revealed after the DHSC published the list of 47 companies that had awarded contracts through the VIP lane following a freedom of information request pursued by the Good Law Project, which sought to verify the accuracy of some government contracts. casts doubt.
There is no evidence that Mone played any role in getting his contracts from PPE Medpro last year, other than her first referral.
This week, however, the Financial Times reported that Mone had also lobbied officials working for the government’s test-and-trace program, apparently on behalf of PPE Medpro. Jacqui Rock, a senior official, emailed colleagues on Feb. 10, saying: “Baroness Mone is going to Michael Gove and Matt Hancock today because she is glowing with rage the way she thinks Medpro [sic] to the point.”
Mone’s representatives told the FT that: “With regard to testing and tracing, it has advocated to the government that all companies tendering for UK contracts are treated fairly and that DHSC has a transparent process in awarding contracts.”
In response to questions from the Guardian, Mone’s lawyers said: “Baroness Mone is not denying the simple act of referring PPE Medpro as a potential supplier of PPE to Lord Agnew’s office.”
However, they said Mone strongly denied that her previous statements were untrue or misleading, and said they denied that she was associated with, associated with or had any role in PPE Medpro, in the “commercial sense” of those words. They described Mone’s company reference to Agnew as a “very simple, lonely and short step”, which she took as a contribution to the Covid emergency response.
The Guardian is still awaiting a response from Mone’s lawyers as to why the peer initially chose not to disclose its referral from PBM Medpro.