Finance

Lords watchdog investigates Mone over ‘VIP lane’ contract



The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards has launched an investigation into the Conservative peer Michelle Mone, following a complaint by the Labour peer George Foulkes on 6 January.

The issue relates to the PPE company awarded £203m government contracts via the “VIP lane” after Mone referred it to the Cabinet Office in May 2020.

The Guardian reported that leaked files appear to suggest Lady Mone and her husband, Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, were secretly involved in the company, PPE Medpro.

Foulkes asked the commissioners to investigate whether Mone may have breached the Lords code of conduct by failing to declare an interest in the company, and by lobbying for it to be awarded government contracts.

The commissioner confirmed that the investigation would be for “alleged involvement in procuring contracts for PPE Medpro, leading to potential breaches” of three provisions of the Lords code, which cover the requirement that peers publicly register “all relevant interests”, and prohibit them from lobbying for a company or a person in which a peer “has a financial interest”.

The statement added that she would be investigated under the more general provisions of the code’s paragraph 9, which includes that peers “should always act on their personal honour”; must never accept “any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence”; and “must not seek to profit from membership of the house by accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services”.

Mone, appointed a Conservative peer by David Cameron in 2015 after selling an 80% stake in her Ultimo lingerie company, has consistently denied any “role or function” in the company.

The possible sanctions for a peer found to have breached the code of conduct, which are determined by the conduct committee, range from merely having to correct a breach, to the most serious penalty of expulsion from the Lords.

PPE Medpro was awarded an £80.85m contract in May 2020 to supply face masks, followed by a £122m contract in June 2020 to supply 25m surgical gowns. Barrowman has also denied being an investor, and his lawyers have said he “was not personally involved in working for PPEM in relation to PPE contracts”.

In a statement, Mone responded: “I completely refute these allegations. I was asked to help at a time of national emergency.

“I declared all necessary interests and have done nothing wrong. I will cooperate fully with any investigation.”

Foulkes told the Guardian: “I welcome the decision of the commissioner to investigate what appears to be breaches of the code of conduct by Baroness Mone under three provisions dealing with failure to register interests and paid lobbying.”

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