Tory peer Michelle Mone says UK government was told of ties to PPE contracts company

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Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman have said the UK government was told of the Conservative peer’s ties to a controversial medical equipment company that won more than £200mn in state contracts during the pandemic.

Over several years, spokespeople and lawyers for Mone, a lingerie entrepreneur, denied she had any involvement with PPE Medpro, as did people representing Barrowman.

Last month, a spokesperson for Mone told The Guardian newspaper: “She acted as an intermediary/liaison between PPE Medpro and the Cabinet Office/Department of Health and Social Care.”

In a documentary released on YouTube on Sunday, Mone said the “Cabinet Office, everyone, knew of my involvement”, adding: “Both myself and my husband declared my interest.”

Barrowman also accused the government of attempting to “call the dogs off” a criminal investigation into the pair if he was able to stump up more money for a settlement relating to purportedly faulty personal protective equipment provided by PPE Medpro.

The documentary was funded by PPE Medpro and presented by Mark Williams-Thomas. Formerly a police detective, he is now an investigative journalist best known for his work exposing television presenter Jimmy Savile as a paedophile.

The UK government launched legal proceedings against PPE Medpro in December 2022, claiming breach of contract over the quality of £122mn worth of gowns provided by the company. PPE Medpro has denied that the goods provided were faulty.

In the documentary Mone, who said she was on medication and suffering from panic attacks, conceded that she had “made an error” by not telling the press “straightaway” about her involvement with the company. She said she regretted the decision.

Barrowman accused the government of using “threats and bully-boy tactics” in the first mediation between it and PPE Medpro in September 2021 to try to reach a settlement over gowns that were supplied by the company but not used by the NHS.

In the most explosive allegation of the documentary, Barrowman said a government negotiator asked whether he would be willing to settle at a higher value than offered to make “the other allegation go away”, referring to a National Crime Agency investigation that links to PPE Medpro.

Williams-Thomas played a recording of a government negotiator saying the proposed settlement over the gowns “is probably not likely to be enough to call the dogs off”.

However, pressed on this by Barrowman, the negotiator went on to say: “We said a number of times, we don’t have any responsibility, we don’t have any meaningful contact there [the NCA], so there’s nothing we can reasonably do. It was purely just whether, you know whether, there’s a bigger pot if you like, that is there to satisfy both elements.” 

The government said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal cases.”

Barrowman told the documentary that he and Mone made written disclosures to the government about both of their interests in PPE Medpro.

He said they used contacts in Asia and Europe to identify suppliers for personal protective equipment, and pooled together these groups to operate as a consortium.

He also alluded to a “volume of communication” with government officials that made clear Mone’s involvement with the company from the outset in May 2020, although these communications were not shown in the documentary.

Mone referred to herself in the documentary as a “conduit” and a “liaison” between the government and “the guys” that formed the PPE Medpro consortium. She said she did not “benefit directly” from the contracts. 

An internal HSBC report, seen by the Financial Times, traced money transferred by PPE Medpro to accounts linked to Barrowman and about £28.8mn that ultimately went to an account whose beneficiaries were Mone and her children.

Asked in the documentary if she made any financial gain through her ties to PPE Medpro, Mone said: “What my husband decided to do after the event, and who benefits from that, is at his discretion. I am his wife and I may indirectly benefit, but that’s just like all other families.”

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