Michelle Mone steps back from House of Lords after PPE contract claims

Baroness Michelle Mone, the Conservative peer under pressure over contracts awarded by the UK government during the coronavirus pandemic, is taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords to “clear her name”.

The decision follows allegations over Mone’s relationship with PPE Medpro, a company that won more than £200mn of government contracts to supply personal protective equipment at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, PPE Medpro received two contracts for £80mn and £122mn to provide PPE without competitive tender following a recommendation to ministers from the lingerie entrepreneur.

A spokesperson for Mone, who denies any wrongdoing, on Tuesday said she would take a leave of absence from the Lords “with immediate effect” in order “to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her”.

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The peer will be unable to attend sittings, vote or claim any financial allowances from the Lords during her leave of absence.

According to official records, Mone has not voted in the upper chamber since April 26 this year. Three days later, on April 29, the National Crime Agency raided her home along with four properties connected to her and her husband in the Isle of Man as part of a probe into PPE contracts awarded during the pandemic.

In 2020, Mone’s lawyer insisted she knew nothing about the contracts. But an internal HSBC report seen by the Financial Times indicated that Mone and her children ultimately received £29mn of profits from the contracts through an offshore trust.

Labour will later on Tuesday use an obscure parliamentary device known as a “humble address” to try to force the government to release any documents relating to the PPE Medpro contracts. A vote, which the government has said it will not oppose, is expected at about 7pm in the House of Commons.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, urged ministers to set out “clear timelines on when, where, and how” they would release all relevant information.

The government “can’t keep taking the public for fools by refusing to come clean on what they knew about this dodgy deal”, said Rayner. “Rishi Sunak was too weak to remove the whip, and has left it to Baroness Mone to finally read the writing on the wall.”

Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the public would be “appalled” about claims that people with links to the Conservative party had been able to “cash in” on the pandemic.

“Sunak needs to suspend the whip for Mone and commit on public record that he will personally ensure that everyone in his party fully complies with any investigation,” she said.

The government has been accused of a lack of due diligence in its awarding of more than £13bn of contracts related to PPE procurement during the Covid-19 crisis, with some of it turning out to be unusable.

The High Court in January ruled that the government had acted unlawfully in operating a special VIP lane for potential suppliers of PPE who had links with politicians or officials.

Mone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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