Labor has accused ministers of a possible cover-up of a PPE contract with a company linked to Tory colleague Michelle Mone, after the Department of Health refused to release documents related to the deal, citing commercial sensitivities.
The row comes days after the National Crime Agency (NCA) raided Mone’s home as part of an investigation into potential fraud at the company, PPE Medpro, which won more than £200m in contracts government without competitive bidding.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, wrote to the government in January asking for the publication of correspondence and documents related to the deal, as happened over a test contract won by another company, Randox, after lobbying by then Conservative MP Owen Paterson.
In the letter, Rayner noted that Medpro won both contracts through a “VIP lane” for politically connected businesses after Mone contacted two ministers in May 2020 to say she could source PPE.
“I would now ask that the government take the same approach it took for the contract with Randox, which was a similarly contentious issue, and now commit to placing all correspondence and documents relating to the award in the home library. [of Commons] for parliamentary control,” Rayner wrote.
In a response sent last week, Deputy Health Minister Edward Argar defended efforts to buy medical protective supplies at the start of the Covid pandemic, saying the alternative was to ‘not secure PPE which was desperately needed; clearly not an option.
“All offers were subject to rigorous financial, commercial, legal and political assessments,” Argar said, adding that decisions were made by officials, with no evidence that ministers were involved, and that “checks due diligence were appropriate in the circumstances”.
He added: “However, we are unable to provide correspondence and documents relating to the award of the Medpro PPE contract as these remain commercially sensitive, given that the department is currently engaged in a process of mediation regarding the products he received from PPE Medpro Ltd, which involves confidentiality undertakings.
The 25m medical gowns provided by the company were never used after authorities rejected them after an inspection, with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) seeking to recover the Medpro PPE money through mediation. PPE Medpro maintained that he had complied with the terms of his gown contract and was entitled to keep the money paid to him.
In a statement, Rayner said the government’s refusal to release the documents “reeks of a cover-up.”
She said: “The fact that Medpro is mediating to provide unnecessary PPE is no excuse for not being transparent with the public – in fact, it only reinforces the need for clarity on how this waste breathtaking could have happened.
“The government has shown complete disregard for workers by wasting taxpayers’ money on dodgy contracts. »
On Wednesday, the NCA searched several properties associated with Medpro in the Isle of Man and London, including the Isle of Man office building where PPE Medpro is registered and the mansion where Lady Mone lives with her husband, the business tycoon Douglas Barrowman.
Responding to previous stories, Mone’s lawyers said any suggestion of association or collusion between the Tory peer and EPP Medpro would be “inaccurate” and that she was not involved in the business. “Baroness Mone is not an investor, director or shareholder associated in any way with PPE Medpro. She has never had any role or function in PPE Medpro, nor in the process of awarding contracts to PPE Medpro.
Mone’s lawyers said that after taking the “simple, solitary and brief step” of turning PPE Medpro over to the government, she did nothing more about the company.
The Isle of Man Constabulary confirmed that search warrants were executed on Wednesday at four addresses on the island “in support of an ongoing NCA investigation”. There were no arrests.
The DHSC referred any questions about Medpro to the NCA.