Labor will try to force the Government to publish documents relating to £200m of personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts awarded to a company which has been linked to a Conservative colleague.
PPE Medro was awarded 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 associated with PPE Medpro in any way”.
The Labor Party lashed out at the government over the contracts in parliament last monthwith 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 try to get the government to release “all papers, advice and correspondence involving ministers and special advisers, including submissions and electronic communications” relating to the contracts to the accounts committee.
Ahead of the vote, Rayner said: “Tory MPs can either support Labour’s binding vote to force ministers to come clean about the dubious £203m reward of taxpayers’ money to a shady company linked to a Tory colleague, or they choose to be complicit in a cover-up.”
She also attacked the VIP track system itself – which saw a separate mailbox set up for MPs to send offers from firms, but led to the government being criticized for giving preferential treatment to companies with political contacts.
The deputy leader called it “a scandal of epic proportions which has allowed the disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money and inexcusable profiteering by Tory cronies”.
“We want our money back”
And she claimed the government’s forthcoming procurement bill was “full of loopholes that would give Tory ministers free reign to redo everything”, and called on MPs to instead support Labour’s changes which would ban VIP lanes and introduce claw-back clauses so that failing suppliers have to return money to the taxpayer.
“Britain is tired of being ripped off by the Tories,” 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 referred to the department and all companies were subject to the same checks.
“We acted quickly to obtain PPE at the height of the pandemic, competing in an overheated global market where demand massively outstripped supply.”
They added that the department was “currently engaged in a mediation process with PPE Medpro” so could not comment on the details of the contract.
Baroness Mone is currently under investigation by the House of Lords commissioner for standards, with the parliament’s website saying the investigation is into “alleged involvement in the procurement of contracts for PPE Medpro leading to potential breaches … of the House of Lords Code of Conduct” .
Sky News contacted her about Labour’s proposal, but the colleague declined to comment.