The House of Lords commissioners for standards are considering a complaint against the Conservative peer Michelle Mone, relating to the PPE business awarded £203m government contracts after she referred it to the Cabinet Office in May 2020.
The Labour peer George Foulkes complained to the commissioners on 6 January after the Guardian reported that leaked files appear to suggest Mone and her husband, the Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, were secretly involved in the company, PPE Medpro.
After the company was awarded contracts in May and June 2020, Mone and Barrowman have consistently denied any “role or function” in PPE Medpro. Lawyers for Mone, who ran the lingerie company Ultimo before David Cameron made her a peer in 2015, have said she “was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity”.
The fact that Mone referred the company to the office of Theodore Agnew, her fellow Conservative peer who was responsible for procurement during the Covid pandemic, was only disclosed by the government in November 2021 following a freedom of information request pursued by the Good Law Project.
Foulkes, a Labour MP from 1979 to 2005 and former Scotland minister in Tony Blair’s government, asked the commissioners to investigate whether Mone may have breached the Lords code of conduct.
“I am concerned that Baroness Mone has not registered her interest in PPE Medpro and also that her action appears to bring the house into disrepute,” he wrote.
Foulkes told the Guardian: “If Baroness Mone and her husband were involved in the company then it appears to me that she should have registered that as an interest, and she may have breached the rules against lobbying when she referred the company to the government. And with this conduct and her denials in relation to the company, she may have brought the house into disrepute, so I believe the commissioner should investigate.”
On Monday, the commissioner confirmed that the complaint was being assessed. “I can confirm that a complaint has been received and the commissioner is currently undertaking an initial assessment of that complaint,” a Lords spokesperson said. “If he decides to open a formal investigation that will be published on the commissioners’ website.”
The Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake also said the commissioners should consider investigating Mone. “The code of conduct is quite clear that peers must not seek to profit from membership of the house, yet the public record shows that Lady Mone made the initial referral through parliamentary channels, and evidence that she pursued and promoted their application, and that there are connections between her, her husband and the company concerned,” Hollinrake said. “The House of Lords commissioner for standards should consider investigating the matter to establish whether any rules have been broken.”
Mone’s representatives declined to comment on the complaint. Previously they have said she had no interest in PPE Medpro, and denied any wrongdoing.
“The reason why no interest in PPE Medpro appears in Baroness Mone’s register of interests is because no such interest exists,” her lawyer said in December 2020.
Barrowman’s lawyers have repeatedly distanced him from PPE Medpro, saying he was not an investor, director or shareholder. They have said the Guardian’s reporting amounted to “clutching at straws” and was “largely incorrect”.
Mone’s lawyers have said the Guardian’s reporting is “grounded entirely on supposition and speculation and not based on accuracy”, adding: “She is under no obligation to say anything to you.”