Hospital gowns at the centre of a criminal investigation involving Baroness Mone were made with specifications approved by the Cabinet Office, according to documents seen by The Daily Telegraph, as the Ultimo entrepreneur mounts her defence.
The Government is suing PPE Medpro, a company set up by Lady Mone’s husband Doug Barrowman, over an alleged breach of contract concerning personal protective equipment (PPE) products it supplied during the pandemic which the Department for Health claims did not meet specifications.
Lady Mone and Mr Barrowman are defending themselves, claiming the products they sold to the Government were up to the required standard.
It has now emerged that an email sent in June 2020 by the Cabinet Office to PPE Medpro said the specifications for the gowns had been “approved by technical”.
Mr Barrowman, who established PPE Medpro to source and supply PPE during the Covid pandemic, insists the £203m worth of gowns and masks his firm supplied met all of the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) specifications.
Lady Mone claims the couple are being scapegoated by the DHSC to mask its own incompetence in the multi-billion pound PPE procurement fiasco.
On Sunday the couple broke their two-year silence over the ongoing criminal and civil cases regarding the company by releasing a YouTube video in which they protested their innocence.
In it, DHSC negotiator suggests to Mr Barrowman that the Government could “call the dogs off” if he pays enough money to the Treasury, and appears to suggest that the criminal case could also be dropped in return for a payment.
The DHSC issued civil proceedings against PPE Medpro in 2021, demanding repayment of the full £122m contract for the gowns, plus £11m to cover other costs. It alleges that the gowns were unusable because they were only wrapped in single packaging, rather than double wrapped in line with NHS preference, and that they were not sterile. The National Crime Agency also launched a fraud investigation which is ongoing.
But Mr Barrowman says that the DHSC never specified that it wanted double-wrapped gowns, and that it was only after the gowns had been delivered that it realised its mistake and began demanding that gowns were double-wrapped.
On June 12 2020 an official from the Cabinet Office emailed PPE Medpro saying: “Gowns have been approved by Technical!”
Former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, who was hired by PPE Medpro to independently investigate the Government’s claims, says in the YouTube film that he has checked 24 other contracts for gowns from other suppliers from that time, and that none of them specify double-wrapped gowns.
Mr Barrowman says PPE Medpro’s contract was for delivery “ex works”, meaning that the DHSC took over liability for the gowns once they had been delivered from the factory.
‘Call the dogs off’
Part of the DHSC’s case is that the gowns failed sterility tests, but Mr Barrowman has pointed out that they were kept in shipping containers for months, where the extreme heat and cold to which they were exposed meant they deteriorated. In addition, he says the DHSC cannot account for the whereabouts of the gowns for three weeks after they were taken away for testing.
He also says he saved the Government more than £100 million by undercutting other suppliers at a time when the global PPE market was hugely inflated. At the height of the pandemic in April to May 2020 the average price for a type two IIR face mask was 51p, while PPE Medpro charged 38.5p. The average price for sterile gowns ranged between £7 and £12 in the same period, while PPE Medpro charged £4.88.
Lady Mone stands accused of a lack of transparency over her personal connection to PPE Medpro when she recommended it to ministers through a so-called VIP lane, but she says she has 1,400 emails and WhatsApps to prove that the Government knew of her involvement at every stage.
She says in the documentary: “It is 100 per cent a lie. It’s not true, because of the sheer amount of communication, email, WhatsApp, phone calls, it’s all there.”
Lady Mone says she and her husband have become “sick and tired of reading the lies every single day” and decided to speak out because: “I think everyone feels that because we have been silent that we are guilty. The whole thing has been so scary, but you just don’t know what to do.”
A DHSC spokesman said the department did not comment on ongoing legal cases.