Michelle Mone's husband says family 'treated as punchbag' in row over PPE

By John Mercury January 2, 2024

Baroness Michelle Mone’s husband has hit out at the government and said his family has been “treated as a punchbag” in a row over personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement during the pandemic.

Doug Barrowman blasted “lamentable failures” by ministers in procuring PPE during the early days of the pandemic, and added that “it suits the agenda of the government and their media spin doctors to scapegoat my wife and I”.

It comes after Baroness Mone admitted she lied when she denied having links to the firm PPE Medpro, a consortium led by Mr Barrowman, which was awarded contracts worth more than £200 million to supply gowns and face masks.

She also conceded in an interview last month that she and her family stand to benefit from the £60m in profits made by the company, placed into a trust by her husband.

In the statement of more than 1,000 words published early on New Year’s Day on X, Mr Barrowman said he and his family have been “treated as a punchbag by the media for the past three years” and have “received death threats and a constant torrent of online and other abuse”.

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‘A shocking disgrace from top to bottom’

He attempted to move the debate towards what he classed as failures by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), saying: “Michelle and I are being hung out to dry to distract attention from government incompetence in how it handled PPE procurement at time of national emergency.”

He added: “Medpro supplied the government with 1.5% of PPE spend (£202m) against a total of £13.1bn and yet the media or government refuses to focus on the other 98.5% of PPE supplied; much of which was defective or never used and/or supplied in identical circumstances to the Medpro contracts.”

Mr Barrowman also hit out at the COVID inquiry, saying it is “simply unacceptable” that it is not set to examine PPE procurement until 2025, which would be after a general election.

He said: “The stark reality is that DHSC has brought this claim against Medpro at a time of increased scrutiny of how it overspent by so much and when questions were being asked as to why the government was writing off £9 billion of PPE out of the £13.1 billion spent.

“How on earth did the UK government manage to purchase five years of PPE when it was only supposed to build up four months of stock?

“Yet no one has been held accountable at DHSC. Its head, Sir Chris Wormald [permanent secretary to the DHSC] should resign, since ultimately he signed off all the PPE contracts.”

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PM comments on PPE scandal

The government launched civil legal proceedings against PPE Medpro last December over the deal, and the firm is vigorously defending itself.

It is also facing a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation into suspected criminal offences in the contracts for PPE procurement – but Mr Barrowman accused ministers of “using the arm of the NCA to threaten criminal proceedings unless we settle” the civil case.

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He also said it was “curious” that “out of 176 disputed contracts to a value of £2.7bn, no one else, other than Medpro is being litigated against”, and added the firm is “confident of success” in the legal fight.

A DHSC spokesman said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal cases.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said last month that he and the government “take all these things incredibly seriously”, but refused to comment more specifically due to the ongoing legal action.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for Baroness Mone to be expelled from the House of Lords following the admission she lied over her links to Medpro.

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