Baroness Mone loses Tory whip amid PPE contracts row

Michelle Mone - PA
Michelle Mone - PA

Rishi Sunak has announced that Michelle Mone, the Tory peer embroiled in a PPE procurement controversy, no longer holds the party whip.

The Prime Minister said he was “shocked” by allegations about her links to a company that won more than £200 million of government contracts.

Baroness Mone has faced mounting accusations in recent days that she may have profited after recommending the firm to ministers during the Covid pandemic.

The former lingerie entrepreneur announced on Tuesday that she was taking a leave of absence from the Lords to “clear her name”. She has denied all the allegations against her.

Mr Sunak was pressed on the controversy by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, during a fiery exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

“How did his colleague Baroness Mone end up with nearly £30 million of taxpayers’ money in her bank account?,” asked Sir Keir.

The Prime Minister told the Commons: “Let me say, like everyone else I was absolutely shocked to read about the allegations. It is absolutely right that she is no longer attending the House of Lords and therefore no longer has the Conservative whip.”

Last Tuesday, a spokesman for the Tories in the House of Lords said a “decision has been made that she will retain the whip”.

Parliamentary records indicate that Baroness Mone has not spoken in the Lords since March 2020, and her last recorded vote was on April 26 this year. Her leave of absence means she will not attend sittings of the House, vote on any proceedings and will not be able to claim any allowance.

The allegations, which she denies, centre around the awarding of £200 million of Covid contracts to PPE Medpro during the pandemic. It was allegedly handed taxpayers’ money to make surgical gowns after Baroness Mone flagged the firm to ministers through a so-called “VIP lane” system.

Mone vows ‘to clear her name of allegations’

On Tuesday, fresh claims emerged that she had also lobbied on behalf of a second firm, LFI Diagnostics, which was hired to supply lateral flow tests.

Both firms are listed in the Isle of Man as “entities” of the family office of her husband, Douglas Barrowman, according to The Guardian.

Documents obtained by The Guardian reportedly showed that Mr Barrowman was paid at least £5 million in profits from PPE Medpro in September 2020.

It is alleged that a trust of which Baroness Mone and her adult children were beneficiaries received £29 million of the funds the following month.

The office is run by Anthony Page, and lawyers for both of the couple have denied any “involvement” in PPE Medpro, or any “role” in its bid for government contracts.

Lawyers for Baroness Mone have also denied that she benefited financially from the company. The peer has vowed “to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her”.