Health minister admits Government DID know about links between Tory peer ‘Baroness Bra’ and PPE firm that won £200million in contracts at height of Covid pandemic
Ministers have admitted they knew of ties between a Tory peer lingerie tycoon and a PPE firm that won Government contracts worth £200million at the height of the pandemic.
Michelle Mone – nicknamed ‘Baroness Bra’ – has faced increasing scrutiny for her links to PPE Medpro, a company founded just weeks before it sealed two deals to supply the UK with aprons and face masks in 2020.
Lady Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman have denied any involvement with the company, despite recommending the firm to the Cabinet Office as a potential supplier in May 2020 via the controversial ‘VIP lane’.
But in the latest twist, a junior health minister has now admitted his department was aware of a connection between the firm and the Tory peer, the Mirror reports.
Edward Argar also revealed that the Department of Health was in dispute with PPE Medpro over millions of surgical gowns which it bought for £122m and never used due to safety and quality concerns.
In a response to a question by Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, Mr Argar said: ‘Departmental records reflect that a link between Baroness Mone and PPE Medpro was clear prior to contracts being awarded.’
Michelle Mone – nicknamed ‘Baroness Bra’ – has faced increasing scrutiny for her links to PPE Medpro, a company founded just weeks before it sealed two deals to supply the UK with aprons and face masks in 2020
The lingerie tycoon – nicknamed ‘Baroness Bra’ – has denied any association with the company, despite recommending the firm to the Cabinet Office as a potential supplier in May 2020 via the controversial ‘VIP lane’
The Government has come under fire for the way it procured PPE at the start of the pandemic.
It led to accusations of ‘cash for cronies’ after it emerged that friends and associates of ministers were the beneficiaries of the scheme.
Two New Zealand social media consultants who worked on Boris Johnson’s election campaign and former Health Secretary’s Matt Hancock’s neighbour were among those awarded contracts.
Although she has no actual formal connections with the company, Lady Mone’s denials have come under scrutiny thanks to publicly documented connections between Anthony Page, PPE Medpro’s owner, and businesses run by the Tory Peer and her husband, Isle of Man-based billionaire Mr Barrowman.
When asked about the link, her office told the Mirror: ‘Same questions, same answers. Baroness Mone declared her interests and has done nothing wrong whatsoever. We’ll not be answering any more questions on this.’
The Tory peer has previously admitted that she made the ‘very simple, solitary and brief step’ of referring PPE Medpro to the Cabinet in 2020 but insists she ‘did not do anything further in respect of PPE Medpro’.
She is currently facing an official probe into her links by the House of Lords Commissioners for Standards.
Junior health minister Edward Argar has admitted his department was aware of a connection between the firm and Lady Mone
Baroness Mone is being investigated under several sections of the Lords’ code of conduct, including a section saying peers ‘must never accept or agree to accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence’.
Mr Page, the sole owner of PPE Medpro, is a wealth management expert who works for Barrowman’s Knox House Trust, part of the Knox Group of companies based on the Isle of Man, where Lady Mone and her husband live on a £25 million estate.
It has been claimed that Mr Barrowman was part of a financial consortium that backed PPE Medpro – but his lawyers have denied the reports.
Lady Mone founded lingerie brand Ultimo through parent company MJM International in 1996. She was made a life peer by David Cameron in 2015.
She faces a separate fight to clear her name of libel, after Richard Lynton-Jones, who is of Indian heritage, filed a writ in the High Court alleging that Lady Mone had called him a ‘waste of a white man’s skin’ in a WhatsApp group.
Lawyers for Lady Mone say the claim ‘lacks merit’ and she will ‘defend it vigorously’.
Used and out-of-date Covid face masks could be turned into NHS hospital CURTAINS and bedsheets after ministers ‘wasted’ billions on unusable PPE at height of pandemic
Ministers are looking at turning used and out-of-date Covid face masks into NHS hospital curtains and bed sheets after ordering billions more than were needed during the pandemic.
More than 36.4billion items of personal protective equipment (PPE) have been ordered by the UK Government since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
But ministers were condemned after it emerged earlier this month that £2.2billion worth of masks, visors and aprons are set to expire before they can be used.
Junior health minister Edward Argar revealed today that officials are ‘exploring’ recycling the gear to avoid huge amounts of waste.
He also said ministers were looking at how to dispose of plastic lateral flow testing kits, and changing the packs to include more biodegradable materials.
PPE contracts were handed out via a ‘high priority lane’ at the height of the pandemic in 2020 which saw companies handed huge Government contracts without having to go through the normal procurement route.
It is not clear whether the Government intends to recycle used PPE items or if the plans will only affect excess or expired stock.
Mr Argar revealed the plans in response to a written question from liberal democrat MP Sarah Olney about how the Government plans to handle PPE waste.
He said: ‘We are reviewing the potential of reusable Type IIR masks in acute settings, using existing laundry services to reduce the need for single-use products.
‘These reusable Type IIR masks will be recycled into curtains, mattress covers or other products to contribute to the sustainable disposal of personal protective equipment and zero to landfill recycling programme.
‘We plan to pilot reusable eye protection where the product can be recycled at the end of its life. We have recycled 22million visors to make plastic containers, which can be used to store food items and will also be recyclable.’