Labour will try to force the government to publish documents relating to £200m of personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts given to a company that has been linked to a Conservative peer.
PPE Medro was granted contracts to make surgical gowns and masks during the COVID pandemic after Baroness Michelle 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”.
Labour hit out at the government over the contracts in parliament last month, with deputy leader Angela Rayner claiming there had been a “failure of due diligence” and “profits made possible through the company’s personal connections to ministers”.
Now the party is bringing a binding vote to the Commons on Tuesday to attempt to make the government release “all papers, advice, and correspondence involving ministers and special advisers, including submissions and electronic communications” relating to the contracts to the public accounts committee.
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.”
She also attacked the VIP lane system itself – which 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.
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The deputy leader called it “a scandal of epic proportions that has allowed the shameful waste of taxpayers’ money and inexcusable profiteering by Tory cronies”.
‘We want our money back’
And she claimed the government’s upcoming procurement bill was “full of loopholes that would give Tory ministers free reign to do it all over again”, calling for MPs to instead back Labour’s amendments that would outlaw VIP lanes and introduce claw back clauses so failing providers have to return money to the taxpayer.
“Britain is sick of being ripped off by the Tories,” Ms Rayner added. “We want our money back.”
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.
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”.
Sky News contacted her about Labour’s motion, but the peer declined to comment.