Baroness Michelle Mone takes a leave of absence from House of Lords amid PPE contracts controversy

Baroness Michelle Mone takes a leave of absence from House of Lords amid PPE contracts controversy
Baroness Michelle Mone takes a leave of absence from House of Lords amid PPE contracts controversy

Arabnews24.ca:Tuesday 6 December 2022 11:28 AM: Tory peer Baroness Michelle Mone is taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords with immediate effect.

Baroness Mone, who is at the centre of controversy over her alleged links to a firm awarded £200m of PPE contracts, said in a statement that she will take a break from the upper house of parliament to "clear her name" over the allegations.

The development comes as Sky News understands the government will not oppose a motion tabled by Labour in an attempt to force ministers to publish documents related to the contracts.

PPE Medpro was granted contracts to make surgical gowns and masks during the COVID pandemic after Baroness Mone flagged the firm to ministers through a so-called "VIP lane" system.

She has since faced accusations of profiting from the business, but has consistently denied any "role or function" in the company, with lawyers previously saying she is "not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity".

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A spokesman for Baroness Mone said: "With immediate effect, Baroness Mone will be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her."

The leave of absence means Baroness Mone will not attend sittings of the House, vote on any proceedings and will not be able to claim any allowance.

But a House of Lords spokesperson said the clerk of the parliaments must agree to her requested leave of absence.

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"Baroness Mone has indicated she intends to request to take leave of absence from the House of Lords," they said.

"Members request leave of absence by writing to the Clerk of the Parliaments. In doing so, they must confirm when they intend to return to the House.

"The Clerk will take a decision once he has received the formal request and after consulting with others as required."

Sky News understands Baroness Mone still has the Conservative whip.

Responding to Ms Mone's leave of absence, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "The Tories are all out of excuses.

"Ministers must now set out clear timelines on when, where, and how this information will be released. They can't keep taking the public for fools by refusing to come clean on what they knew about this dodgy deal.

"Rishi Sunak was too weak to remove the whip, and has left it to Baroness Mone to finally read the writing on the wall."

Calling for the release of PPE contracts awarded to PPE Medpro, Ms Rayner accused members of the Tory party of using the pandemic as an "opportunity" to "get rich".

She alleged that the company was awarded a £122m contract for gowns that "could not be used" and that £700,000 of "taxpayers' money" a day is now being wasted on storing the unusable PPE.

The company has denied that the kit was faulty.

The Liberal Democrats' deputy leader Daisy Cooper added: "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."

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'A scandal of huge proportion'

The VIP lane system saw a separate mailbox set up for MPs to send on offers from firms, but led to the government being criticised for giving preferential treatment to companies with political contacts.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Ms Rayner said: "Tory MPs can either back Labour's binding vote to force ministers to come clean on the murky award of £203m in taxpayers' money to a shady company linked to a Tory peer, or they are choosing to be complicit in a cover-up."

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Baroness Mone is currently under investigation by the House of Lords' commissioner for standards, with parliament's website saying the probe is over "alleged involvement in procuring contracts for PPE Medpro leading to potential breaches…of the House of Lords code of conduct".

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A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "Due diligence was carried out on all companies that were referred to the department and every company was subjected to the same checks.

"We acted swiftly to procure PPE at the height of the pandemic, competing in an overheated global market where demand massively outstripped supply."

They added the department was "currently engaged in a mediation process with PPE Medpro", so could not comment on the specifics of the contract.

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