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Michelle Mone hits back at Rishi Sunak over PPE scandal

Baroness Michelle Mone has hit back at Rishi Sunak, saying she was “honest” with the government over contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE).

The peer has admitted lying to the media about her links to a company that supplied millions of pounds worth of personal protective equipment to the government during the Covid pandemic.

But she insisted the government knew about her involvement.

The prime minister said he was taking the issue “incredibly seriously”.

In an interview with the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Baroness Mone conceded she stands to benefit from the profits made by PPE Medpro, which is led by her husband.

Asked about her admission she did not tell the truth about her links to the company, Mr Sunak said: “The government takes these things incredibly seriously, which is why we’re pursuing legal action against the company concerned in these matters.”

“But it is also subject to an ongoing criminal investigation. And because of that, there’s not much further that I can add,” he told reporters on a visit to Scotland.

Responding to Mr Sunak’s comments on X, Baroness Mone said: “What is @RishiSunak talking about?

“I was honest with the Cabinet Office, the government and the NHS in my dealings with them.

“They all knew about my involvement from the very beginning.”

However, Lord Bethell – who was a minister in the Department of Health during the pandemic – disputed her account, saying she “wasn’t ‘honest’ about her financial interest to me”.

“She didn’t explain ‘from the very beginning’ about her financial ‘involvement’,” he wrote on X, adding that Mr Sunak was right to take the matter seriously.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Baroness Mone should not be a member of the House of Lords, describing the scandal as a “shocking disgrace from top to bottom”.

He said the government had “serious questions” to answer, including who started the conversations with Baroness Mone in the first place.

The Scottish lingerie tycoon was made a Conservative peer by David Cameron but is no longer in the parliamentary party.

She is currently on a leave of absence from Parliament, which she previously said was to “clear her name”, and is being investigated by the House of Lords for not declaring her interest in PPE Medpro.

The company is also being investigated by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Earlier, Energy Efficiency Minister Lord Callanan said he hoped Baroness Mone would “see sense” and “would not be coming back to the House of Lords”.

“I think she should have declared her involvement in that in the House of Lords register, and there is guidance available for that,” he told Sky News.

PPE Medpro was awarded government contracts worth more than £200m to supply PPE to the NHS during the pandemic through a so-called “VIP lane”, introduced to help the government choose between huge numbers of supplier offers.

In November 2021, the government revealed that Baroness Mone was the “source of referral” for PPE Medpro getting a place in the VIP lane.

Millions of gowns the company supplied were never used but the couple say these were supplied in accordance with the contract.

PPE Medpro is being sued by the UK government for £122m plus costs for “breach of contract and unjust enrichment”. The company is defending the legal action.

In their interview with the BBC, Baroness Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman apologised for denying their role in the deal for more than three years.

Having previously denied gaining directly from the contracts, which yielded profits of around £60m, Baroness Mone admitted she and her children stand to become beneficiaries of financial trusts where the money is held.

“If my husband passes away before me, then I am a beneficiary, as well as his children and my children,” she said.

She accepted they had lied to the media about their involvement, saying this was to protect her family from press intrusion. But she said this was “not a crime”.

Baroness Mone said she had been told by Cabinet Office officials she only had to declare her interest to them, not the House of Lords.

The couple said the government’s handling of PPE contracts was “shambolic” and claimed they had been made scapegoats because they were “high profile and successful”.