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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

New revelations in Tory PPE scandal

Today's Guardian reveals that a second company that the Tory peer Michelle Mone lobbied ministers over in an attempt to secure government Covid contracts was a secret entity of her husband’s family office.

The paper says that Lady Mone’s lobbying on behalf of the company, LFI Diagnostics, which she tried to help secure government contracts for Covid lateral flow tests, prompted a formal rebuke from a health minister who reminded her of “the need for propriety”:

A departmental source told the Guardian that Mone was “in a class of her own in terms of the sheer aggression of her advocacy” on behalf of LFI Diagnostics.

However, it is the revelation that the company was a secret entity of the office that manages the wealth of her husband, Douglas Barrowman, that will deepen the controversy over the Tory peer and her access to ministers.

On Tuesday, Mone’s spokesperson said that she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords with immediate effect, adding she was doing so “in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her”.

Mone’s apparent lobbying during the pandemic of at least four Tory ministers – Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Lord Agnew and Lord Bethell – is threatening to become a major scandal for the government.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, MPs voted to force the government to release documents relating to £200m contracts that were given to PPE Medpro in June 2020, weeks after Mone referred it to Gove and Agnew, using their personal email addresses.

A crucial document seen by the Guardian suggests that both PPE Medpro and LFI Diagnostics were set up for the ultimate benefit of Barrowman and his family.

The document was prepared by Anthony Page, who runs Barrowman’s family office in the Isle of Man. It lists both PPE Medpro and LFI Diagnostics as “entities” of his family office, also known as the Knox family office.

A source familiar with the Barrowman family office said its “entities” are owned, either directly or indirectly, for the ultimate benefit of Barrowman or his family. While Page runs the family office, it is ultimately controlled by Barrowman, the source added.

It is little wonder that the public want the Tories out of office as soon as possible.
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