Government accused of 'cover-up' for refusing to publish PPE contracts

Government refusal to publish contracts of PPE firm linked to Tory peer Michelle Mone ‘reeks of cover-up,’ Labour says

  • PPE Medpro was awarded £230m contract to supply gowns and masks to NHS
  • It was revealed that Lady Mone referred the firm to office of Theodore Agnew
  • At the time he was Cabinet Office minister responsible for procurement of PPE 
  • Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner urged the government to release records 
  • Edward Agar said they couldn’t be released as they were ‘commercially sensitive’
  • In response, Ms Rayner accused the government of ‘failing to be transparent’
  • Lady Mone has repeatedly denied having any association with PPE Medpro

The government is embroiled in a row over its refusal to publish its contracts with a PPE firm linked to Tory peer Michelle Mone, with Labour saying it ‘reeks of a cover-up’.

PPE Medpro was awarded £203million worth of Covid PPE contracts to supply surgical gowns and masks to the NHS without public tender, but is now being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of an inquiry into suspected fraud offences.

It was previously revealed that lingerie tycoon Lady Mone, who claims to have no link to PPE Medpro, referred the firm to the office of fellow Tory peer Theodore Agnew, who at the time was a Cabinet Office minister responsible for the procurement of PPE. 

In January, Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, wrote to the government requesting the release of records related to the deal, and claimed PPE Medpro had won the contracts via a ‘VIP lane’ after Lady Mone contacted two ministers in May 2020.

Edward Agar, a junior health minister, responded to the letter last week and defended the government’s purchasing of PPE, saying the alternative was ‘not securing the PPE that was desperately needed’. However, he said the government could not provide correspondence relating to the contract with PPE Medpro as they remain ‘commercially sensitive’.

Ms Rayner said the refusal to release the contracts ‘reeks of a cover-up’, and that the government was ‘failing to be transparent with the public’.

It comes as Lady Mone’s home on the Isle of Man was raided by the National Crime Agency last week by officers investigating PPE Medpro.

It was revealed that lingerie tycoon Lady Mone, who claims to have no link to PPE Medpro, referred the firm to the office of fellow Tory peer Theodore Agnew, who at the time was a Cabinet Office minister responsible for the procurement of PPE 

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, wrote to the government requesting the release of records related to the deal, and claimed PPE Medpro had won the contracts via a ‘VIP lane’ after Lady Mone contacted two ministers in May 2020

PPE Medpro appeared on the ‘VIP Lane’ list of companies given greater chances of a PPE contract after being added to it by Lord Agnew’s office.

The firm, which is based in the Isle of Man, was formed on May 12, 2020, and, a few weeks later, was given a contract to supply 25 million sterile gowns and masks.

Lady Mone was linked to the company by the Guardian, however she denied have a role in the company. 

In January it emerged she had been referred to the House of Lords Commissioners for Standards.

Labour peer George Foulkes said Lady Mone had failed to fully disclose her business interests in PPE Medpro and asked the commissioners to investigate whether she had breached the rules against lobbying when she referred the firm to the Government.

Also in January, Ms Rayner wrote her letter to the government asking for the release of records connected to the deal with PPE Medpro, as had happened with Randox following lobbying by then Tory MP Owen Paterson.

Ms Rayner wrote: ‘I would ask now that the government takes the same approach as it has to the contract with Randox, which was a similar matter of controversy, and commits now to place all correspondence and records relating to the award in the library of the house [of Commons] for parliamentary scrutiny.’

Mr Agar responded to Ms Rayner last week, saying not securing PPE at the start of the pandemic was ‘clearly not an option’.

Lady Mone with her billionaire husband Doug Barrowman. She has denied any involvement with PPE Medpro, which was given government contracts along with another firm

PPE Medpro shows these products among items it currently offers on its website

He said ‘all offers underwent rigorous financial, commercial, legal and policy assessments’ before adding: ‘However, we are unable to provide correspondence and records relating to the award of the PPE Medpro contract as these remain commercially sensitive, given the department is currently engaged in a mediation process concerning the products it received from PPE Medpro Ltd, which involves confidentiality undertakings.’   

Millions of the medical gowns bought by the NHS from PPE Medpro were never used as they had not reached the British Standard for the sterilisation of medical devices or what was called a ‘technical equivalent’.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) sought to recover money from PPE Medpro through mediation but the firm said it had complied with contact and that it was entitled to keep the money.

In a statement published by the Guardian, Ms Rayner said: ‘The fact that Medpro is in mediation for providing useless PPE is no excuse for failing to be transparent with the public – in fact it only strengthens the need for clarity about how this eye-watering waste was allowed to happen.

‘The government have shown complete disregard for working people by wasting taxpayers’ money on dodgy contracts.’

Government details show how Lady Mone referred PPE Medpro as a potential supplier

Officers from the NCA searched properties associated with PPE Medpro on the Isle of Man, including Lady Mone’s £25million estate and an office building where the firm is registered. They also raided buildings in London connected to the firm.

The Isle of Man constabulary confirmed Wednesday’s searches saying they were ‘in support of an ongoing NCA investigation’ and that no arrests were made.

Lady Mone, who founded lingerie brand Ultimo through parent company MJM International in 1996, has repeatedly denied any association with PPE Medpro.

Although she has no actual formal connections with the company, her denials have come under scrutiny thanks to publicly documented connections between Anthony Page, PPE Medpro’s owner, and businesses run by Lady Mone and her husband, Isle of Man-based billionaire Doug Barrowman.

Lawyers for Lady Mone said suggestion of collusion between her and the firm would be ‘inaccurate’. 

‘Baroness Mone is neither an investor, director or shareholder in any way associated with PPE Medpro’, they told the Guardian.

‘She has never had any role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process by which contracts were awarded to PPE Medpro.’ 

The DHSC directed all enquiries regarding PPE Medpro to the NCA. 

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