Baroness Mone takes ‘leave of absence’ from Lords

Michelle Mone was admitted to the House of Lords as Baroness Mone of Mayfair in 2015 - PA
Michelle Mone was admitted to the House of Lords as Baroness Mone of Mayfair in 2015 - PA

Baroness Mone, the controversial Tory peer, is to take a leave of absence from the House of Lords in a bid to clear her name.

The lingerie entrepreneur has faced mounting accusations in recent days over her alleged links to a firm awarded a lucrative PPE contract during the Covid pandemic.

A spokesman for the peer said: “With immediate effect, Baroness Mone will be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords in order to clear her name of the allegations that have been unjustly levelled against her.”

Parliamentary records indicate that she has not spoken in the Lords since March 2020, and her last recorded vote was on April 26 this year.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, on Tuesday faced accusations of weakness over his failure to withdraw the Tory whip from Lady Mone while the matter is investigated.

It came as Labour launched an attempt to force the Government into releasing records relating to the award of the contracts to PPE Medpro during the pandemic.

Reports, denied by Lady Mone, claimed the peer may have profited from the firm winning public contracts worth more than £200 million to supply equipment after she recommended it to ministers.

Lords standards watchdog investigates

The leave of absence means Lady Mone will not attend sittings of the House, vote on any proceedings and will not be able to claim any allowance. Her request could be rejected by the Lords authorities, but if it is approved she does not have to register any changes to her financial interests.

Although she intends to take a leave of absence immediately, her formal request must include details of when she intends to return to the Lords and will not be granted until she provides that information.

The Lords standards watchdog is investigating Lady Mone over her alleged involvement in procuring contracts for PPE Medpro, although this has been paused “while the matter is under investigation by the police or another agency as part of a criminal investigation”.

If her request for a leave of absence is approved, it will not prevent the Lords Commissioner for Standards from carrying out the investigation, and she will be expected to co-operate with the inquiry.

Lady Mone has consistently denied any “role or function” in the company, and her lawyers have previously said she is “not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity”.

‘The Tories are all out of excuses’

The Government has come under fire for the use of “VIP lanes”, whereby preferential treatment for public contracts can be given to organisations recommended by MPs and peers.

The motion tabled by Labour in the Commons was to compel the release of “all papers, advice, and correspondence involving ministers and special advisers, including submissions and electronic communications” relating to the Medpro PPE contracts to the public accounts committee.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, said: “The Tories are all out of excuses. Ministers must now set out clear timelines on when, where, and how this information will be released. They can’t keep taking the public for fools.

“Rishi Sunak was too weak to remove the whip and has left it to Baroness Mone to finally read the writing on the wall.”