Questions raised about PPE contract linked to Tory peer Baroness Mone | Politics news

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The Government is under pressure to release records relating to a multi-million pound PPE contract linked to Tory peer Baroness Mone.

In the House of Commons, Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner hit out at a “total failure of due diligence” when she questioned whether PPE Medpro should win a contract for personal protective equipment and “profits made possible by the company’s personal connections to ministers”.

“Last night documents seen by The Guardian revealed yet another case of taxpayers’ money wasted, a total failure of due diligence and a conflict of interest at the heart of public procurement,” she said.

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Baroness Mone
Baroness Michelle Mone OBE. Picture: PA

“In May 2020, PPE Medpro was set up and awarded £203 million in government contracts following a referral from a Tory peer.

“It now appears that tens of millions of pounds of this money ended up in offshore accounts linked to those involved, profits made possible through the company’s personal connections to ministers and Tories’ VIP lane declared illegal by the High Court.”

Ms Rayner said there are “rightly separate inquiries into Baroness Mone’s conduct, but the issues raised by this case are far wider”.

Michelle Mone, the Conservative peer who founded lingerie brand Ultimo, is under investigation by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards.

Parliament’s website says this is over “alleged involvement in the procurement of contracts for PPE Medpro leading to potential breaches … of the House of Lords Code of Conduct”.

Ms Rayner said the Government refused to release correspondence relating to the award of the Medpro contract because they were still involved in a mediation process.

In an urgent question to Health Minister Neil O’Brien, she asked if this mediation process has achieved any result “and what public funds have been recovered, if any?”

Sir. O’Brien said it was “widely reported that it had an underperforming contract” and outlined the process the government would pursue.

“The first step is to send a pre-action letter outlining a claim for compensation.

“And that is followed by litigation if a satisfactory agreement is not reached.

“And to answer the right honorable lady’s question directly, we have not reached the point where a satisfactory agreement has been reached at this time.”

Read more:
Government PPE contract disputes could cost taxpayers £2.7bn, MPs say

Downing Street would not be drawn on the allegations surrounding Baroness Mone.

Ms Rayner said that while today’s reports relate to just one case, “this government has written off £10 billion alone in PPE that was deemed unfit for use”.

“Ministers appear to have learned nothing and have no shame. While families struggle to make ends meet, taxpayers will spend £700,000 a day stocking inadequate personal protective equipment.”

The government’s use of high-priority lanes to speed up the award process for PPE contracts during the pandemic has been branded “VIP lanes” by critics, with Labor previously claiming there is a “cash for access” culture in the Tory party.

But being referred to the high-priority track “was emphatically not a guarantee of a contract and in fact almost 90% of bids referred through the route were unsuccessful”, the Downing Street spokesman said.

Baroness Mone has declined to comment on the latest allegations.

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