Michelle Mone: Ministers knew about my links to PPE firm

Sir Keir Starmer said the peer should be expelled from the Lords after she admitted lying about her involvement in PPE Medpro.

Baroness Michelle Mone has insisted ministers knew about her involvement with a PPE firm “from the very beginning”, as she faced calls to step back permanently from the House of Lords.

The peer dug in to the row by hitting out at Rishi Sunak after he said he was taking the issue “incredibly seriously”.

It came after Lady Mone admitted she lied when she denied having links to PPE Medpro, a consortium led by her husband which made millions of pounds in profits from a Government deal to supply personal protective equipment during the pandemic after she recommended it to ministers.

Sir Keir Starmer said she should be expelled from the Lords as he urged the Government to “come clean” about the scandal he described as a “shocking disgrace”.

The Labour leader piled pressure on ministers to answer “serious questions” about what they knew, including who started the conversations with Lady Mone in the first place.

On the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme, her first major broadcast interview since the controversy emerged, she admitted she did not tell the truth about her connection to PPE Medpro, while insisting that she and her husband have “no case to answer”.

She conceded she stands to benefit from contracts worth more than £200m to supply gowns and face masks.

The Prime Minister told reporters during a visit to Scotland on Monday: “The Government takes these things incredibly seriously, which is why we’re pursuing legal action against the company concerned in these matters.”

Reacting to his remarks, Lady Mone tweeted: “What is @RishiSunak talking about?

“I was honest with the Cabinet Office, the Government and the NHS in my dealings with them.

“They all knew about my involvement from the very beginning.”

But this was rejected by Tory former health minister Lord Bethell, who replied that she “wasn’t ‘honest’ about her financial interest to me”.

“She didn’t explain ‘from the very beginning’ about her financial ‘involvement’,” he said, adding that it was not in her register of financial interests as a member of the House of Lords.

Michael Gove is facing calls to appear before MPs to answer questions over PPE firm Medpro.PA Media

Lady Mone’s interview saw her name-check Michael Gove, saying she contacted the then-chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at the start of the pandemic to offer help.

On Monday, she accused the Cabinet minister and Department of Health official Sir Chris Wormald of overseeing a “huge waste in PPE contracts”.

Sir Keir said: “This is a shocking disgrace from top to bottom.

“And, as every day goes past, there are more questions that need to be answered.

“There’s now suggestions there was early private contact with members of the Cabinet that may have started this unhappy story in the first place.

“So the Government needs come clean.”

He urged Mr Gove to make a statement in the Commons, while the Liberal Democrats called for a Cabinet Office probe into the issue.

Lib Dem Cabinet Office spokesperson Christine Jardine said: “We need an urgent, independent inquiry into what happened at the Cabinet Office over these contracts. What did ministers know when, and what exactly did they say to Michelle Mone or anyone else involved?”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stressed how seriously the Government is taking the scandal around PPE Medpro.PA Media

Lady Mone, who was made a Conservative peer by David Cameron in 2015, has been on a leave of absence from the Lords and therefore without the Tory whip since December 2022.

The House of Lords still categorises her as a Tory peer, although there have been reports that she is no longer a member of the party.

Asked if Lady Mone should be expelled from the Lords, the Labour leader said: “I don’t think she should be in the Lords.

“I think the Government should be held to account for this.”

Tory ministers echoed the calls for the lingerie entrepreneur not to return to the upper chamber.

Energy efficiency minister Lord Callanan told Sky News he hoped she would “see sense” and “would not be coming back to the House of Lords”.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho told LBC Radio: “At the moment she’s on leave, and I think considering everything that has come out she’ll want to consider that position very carefully.”

The Government last December issued breach of contract proceedings against PPE Medpro over the 2020 deal on the supply of sterile gowns.

The firm is defending the legal action.

The company is also being investigated by the National Crime Agency into suspected criminal offences in the procurement of PPE contracts.

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