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Rishi Sunak has been embroiled in a bitter row with Baroness Michelle Mon, a Conservative peer, over her role in a medical equipment firm that won more than £200m of government contracts during the pandemic.
The UK prime minister said he was taking the matter “incredibly seriously” after underwear maker Mon admitted he was profiting from around £60mn in profits made by PPE Medpro, which sold personal protective equipment to the government since May 2020.
Admitting to lying to the media about his involvement in PPE Medpro on Sunday, Mon wrote on X: “What is Rishi Sunak talking about? I have been honest in my dealings with the Cabinet Office, the Government and the NHS. They were all aware of my involvement from the beginning.
Labor is seeking to portray the affair as evidence of Tory cronyism and ministers diverting funds from the cash-strapped NHS to pay for dubious Covid deals. The main opposition has an average lead of 18 points ahead of next year’s expected elections.
Mone told the BBC on Sunday that he had approached Michael Cove, then a minister in the Cabinet Office, to offer PPE Medpro’s services in 2020.
For years, Moan’s spokespeople and attorneys, as did people representing her husband, Doug Barrowman, denied she had anything to do with the company.
On Sunday, Mone admitted making a £60m profit. She and her children are beneficiaries of a trust that holds the money, Mone said, adding: “It’s my husband’s money.”
Sunak tried to distance himself from Mon on Monday, saying: “The government takes these matters incredibly seriously, which is why we are taking legal action against the company involved in these matters.”
During a visit to Scotland, he added: “I take it as seriously as the Government take it. But this is subject to an ongoing criminal investigation, so I can’t add much more.
Meanwhile, Lord James Bethel, Minister of Health during the epidemic, said In X that Monae was not “honest about his financial interest” when discussing the PPE Medpro bid for the Covid contract with him.
“She has not explained her financial ‘involvement’ ‘from the beginning,'” he said. Bethel posted a message from Mon referring to “the team at PPE MedPro,” without mentioning his own affiliations.
Monae has been contacted for comment.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer called the affair “a shocking disgrace from top to bottom” and called for a ministerial report to the House of Commons on how the deal was awarded.
Last year the government launched legal proceedings against PPE Medpro, claiming it had breached a contract over the quality of £122m worth of protective gowns supplied by the company. PPE Medpro denies that the products are false. The National Crime Branch is also investigating.
Monae is currently on vacation at the House of Lords. Lord Martin Callanan, an energy minister, said: “I hope he will not come back to the House of Lords.”
Meanwhile, Sunak’s problems escalated when he was announced as a Conservative MP on Monday Miriam Gates He is under investigation by the parliamentary standards watchdog over allegations he caused “significant damage” to the reputation of the House of Commons.
The MP for Pennystone and Stocksbridge, elected in 2019 and a rising star on the party’s right, was accused of harming the reputation of “the house as a whole or its members generally”.
Further details of the inquiry have not been released as the Parliamentary Standards Commission’s activities are confidential.
Gates is one of eight MPs to be investigated by the Standards Commissioner, along with Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Speaker of the Commons, and veteran Tory Sir Bernard Jenkin.
Gates was reached for comment.