HomeCoronavirusMinisters to release papers relating to firm recommended by Michelle Mone

Ministers to release papers relating to firm recommended by Michelle Mone

Ministers will have to release papers, advice and correspondence relating to the award of contracts to PPE Medpro, a company recommended by Conservative peer Michelle Mone who subsequently appeared to receive millions originating from its profits.

Labour forced the move through a “humble address” in parliament on Tuesday, which asked for the government to hand over documents involving ministers and special advisers relating to PPE Medpro to parliament’s public accounts committee.

The government did not oppose the motion, meaning it will have to release some information, but Will Quince, a health minister, signalled it was likely to be delayed and redacted.

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The Guardian’s two-year investigation

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The Guardian reports that PPE Medpro, a company awarded two government contracts worth over £200m, has links to Douglas Barrowman, Michelle Mone’s husband. Lawyers for Mone and Barrowman denied that they had any “role or function in the company, or in the process by which the contracts were awarded”.

Reporting on emails released in a legal challenge brought by the Good Law Project, the Guardian reports on the existence of the VIP route or high priority lane, and reveals that ministers were among the “main routes” through which well-connected companies were given priority in the sourcing of PPE equipment.

Mone is revealed as the “VIP” who referred PPE Medpro Ltd to Lord Agnew. Lawyers representing Mone described the referral as a “very simple, solitary and brief step”.

Documents reveal that Mone secretly approached Michael Gove, who was then a Cabinet Office minister, and Lord Agnew though their private emails. 

More leaked documents reveal surgical gowns brought by the government for £122m were purchased by PPE Medpro’s supply chain partners for £46m from a Chinese manufacturer.

Guardian reveals £29m originating from PPE Medpro profits was paid to a secret offshore trust of which Mone and her children were beneficiaries, according to a report compiled by HSBC and leaked to the newspaper.

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The Guardian revealed last month that legal documents indicate Mone and her children secretly received £29m, originating from the profits of the PPE business that was awarded large government contracts after she recommended it to ministers.

As revealed previously by the Guardian, Mone is said to have lobbied Michael Gove and Lord Agnew at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to secure business for PPE Medpro. Mone has previously denied having any relationship to the company.

Mone has already been placed under investigation by the House of Lords commissioner for standards.

Separately, PPE Medpro has become the subject of a potential fraud investigation by the National Crime Agency. In April this year, NCA officers searched several addresses, including the mansion Mone and Barrowman occupy in the Isle of Man. At the time, lawyers for PPE Medpro declined to comment on the NCA investigation.

During the debate, Quince said the government was “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 aommittee (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.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the motion was a “vote in favour of the truth.

“Zero – that’s the number of times this government has come clean on this dodgy Medpro scandal,” she said. “A cover-up. A whitewash. Events swept under the carpet. And now they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming to the House today to give an honest account about their shameful dealings.”

She added: “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.”

She also demanded a clear timetable for publishing the PPE Medpro documentation and said Rishi Sunak had been “too weak” to remove the party whip from Baroness Mone.

“They can’t keep taking the public for fools by refusing to come clean on what they knew about this dodgy deal,” she said.

Last month, a lawyer for Mone said: “There are a number of reasons why our client cannot comment on these issues and she is under no duty to do so.”

A lawyer who represents both Barrowman and PPE Medpro said at the time that a continuing investigation limited what his clients were able to say on these matters. He added: “For the time being we are also instructed to say that there is much inaccuracy in the portrayal of the alleged ‘facts’ and a number of them are completely wrong.”

Mone has previously stated: “I completely refute these allegations. I was asked to help at a time of national emergency. I declared all necessary interests and have done nothing wrong. I will cooperate fully with any investigation.”

During the debate, several MPs called for excess profits made by PPE firms during the pandemic to be given back to the public purse.

Dawn Butler, a Labour former minister, said: “Now is the time, during the cost-of-living crisis, to give that money back.”

Labour MP Naz Shah, who is a shadow home office minister but spoke from the back benches, said: “The seriousness of this case is such that earlier this year the police raided two London properties linked to the Tory peer … in support of an ongoing fraud investigation by the National Crime Agency.

“We are literally speaking about a criminal fraud investigation where the trail leads directly back to the centre of government.”

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