Baroness Michelle Mone has admitted she did not tell the truth about her links to PPE firm Medpro, but insisted that she and her husband have “no case to answer”.
The company is currently being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), while the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has since issued breach of contract proceedings over a 2020 deal on the supply of gowns.
But in her first major broadcast interview since the scandal emerged, Lady Mone insisted that lying to the media is “not a crime”.
It comes after she admitted she stands to benefit from a deal between the Government and the firm, which was awarded contracts worth more than £200m to supply personal protective equipment after she recommended it to ministers.
Appearing on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, she conceded she made an “error” in publicly denying her links to the firm.
She admitted she is a beneficiary of her husband Doug Barrowman’s financial trusts, which hold around £60m of profit from the deal, but said the couple have been made “scapegoats” for the Government’s wider failings over PPE.
Lady Mone has repeatedly denied that she profited from the deal, which she first discussed with government ministers including Michael Gove.
She told the programme “If one day, if, God forbid, my husband passes away before me, then I am a beneficiary, as well as his children and my children, so, yes, of course.”
Lady Mone said she did not mean to fool anyone, despite admitting the couple misled the press about their involvement.
“I did make an error in saying to the press that I wasn’t involved,” she said.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I wasn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, and I regret and I’m sorry for not saying straight out, yes, I am involved.”
Millions of gowns supplied by the company were never used by health services and the Department of Health is still seeking to claw back some of the money.
The couple insist the gowns were supplied in accordance with the contract.
Mr Barrowman alleged that he was asked by a Government official if he would “would pay more money for the NCA investigation to be called off”.
“We get to November 2022, and I attend this negotiation, as opposed to a mediation.
“It’s very, very clear that, you know, they’re interested in settling but they want a sum of money that, quite honestly, we are not of a mind to pay.
“So, I then have a separate meeting. And this individual asked me would I pay more for the other matter to go away.
“I was speechless, I didn’t quite understand what he meant by that, because the only other matter on the table was the NCA investigation which had commenced in, as far as we were aware, April 2022.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked. I think it raises very serious questions as to what that official meant, what he was saying.”
Asked why he did not take the allegation to the police, he said: “I take the advice of my legal team, and the legal team at that point in time suggested that we park that one for now.”
Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden, appearing on the same programme, indicated he would be “very surprised” if that was the case.
“I simply don’t recognise that, but, again, let’s wait and see. There’s a proper process for this to go through, which is in relation to a civil case and a criminal case.
“We will get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal cases.”
Dowden also defended the Government’s handling of PPE procurement in the early days of the crisis, insisting there were “no favours or special treatment”.
Labour’s Wes Streeting said he did not think anyone watching the interview with Lady Mone would be “shedding any tears”.
“There’s a fundamental point of principle here, which is, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, when so many people rushed to help others in all sorts of ways… and then there were others who saw the pandemic as an opportunity to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense.
“Our message to those people who sought to use the pandemic to get rich quick: we want our money back,” the shadow health secretary said.
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokeswoman Christine Jardine said Lady Mone’s admission was “jaw-dropping”.
“The Prime Minister should kick Michelle Mone out of the Conservative Party and withdraw the whip if she has the gall to return to the Lords.”
Lady Mone also recently told a YouTube documentary that they would both be cleared, arguing they have “done nothing wrong”.
The film, part of a public fightback, is believed to have been funded by PPE Medpro.
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