The government in conflict with the company “VIP lane” referred by a conservative peer | Coronavirus

The government is in dispute over millions of surgical gowns supplied by the PPE firm which were awarded £203m contracts through the fast-track ‘VIP lane’ following a referral from Tory colleague Michelle Mone, he emerged.

Health Minister Edward Argar has broken more than a year of secrecy over surgical gowns supplied by the company, PPE Medpro, telling Labor deputy leader Angela Rayner this week that the government was “mediating “with the company.

Previously, the last solid information provided on Medpro PPE products dates back to December 2020, when the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) stated: “Gowns delivered by MedPro [sic] were not distributed on the front line.

DHSC sources said at the time that the gowns – delivered by PPE Medpro under its second contract, for £122million – were still being “assessed” to ensure they met the standards of safety and quality.

The Guardian recently reported that Lady Mone and her husband, Isle of Man-based financier Douglas Barrowman, appear to have been secretly involved in the affairs of PPE Medpro, despite their repeated denials that they had any “role or function ” in the business. .

The government revealed in November that Mone originally referred the company in May 2020 to the office of fellow Tory Theodore Agnew, minister responsible for procurement in the Cabinet Office during the pandemic. Agnew referred PPE Medpro to the VIP Fast Track Process for Politically Connected Businesses, and within weeks the DHSC awarded the company contracts totaling £203m.

The VIP lane was ruled illegal by the High Court this week, following a challenge by the Good Law Project, as Judge O’Farrell ruled that he breached the requirement to treat potential vendors equally.

Argar declined earlier this month to tell Rayner whether gowns provided by PPE Medpro had been used, saying it was “commercially sensitive”.

Request by Rayner to clarify how this was deemed to be the case, the minister provided his answer on January 11, stating, “The information is considered commercially sensitive as the department is currently engaged in a mediation process with PPE Medpro regarding their products, which involves confidentiality undertakings.”

Mediation is a method of resolving contractual disputes to avoid litigation in court.

Anthony Page, director and sole registered owner of PPE Medpro Ltd in the UK, who works for Barrowman in the Isle of Man, confirmed that mediation was underway over the dresses, saying through a solicitor that “a dispute arose several months after delivery”.

The solicitor said: “Our client is vigorously defending its position in relation to the supply of the dresses which were delivered on time, at a very competitive price and fully in accordance with the contract.”

He said the face masks supplied by PPE Medpro – under its first £80.85m contract – “have all been made without any dispute at all times”.

Rayner said: ‘This government wasted millions on crony contracts distributed via the VIP route, which the High Court found not only dubious but downright illegal.

“No wonder they are desperate to cover up the facts. But hiding behind the cover of commercial sensitivity won’t be enough for the public, whose money he was spending. We need to know if this PPE has actually been used to protect NHS staff and what the government is doing to claw back taxpayers’ money if it has not. »

A DHSC spokesperson said: “All PPE must undergo rigorous checks to ensure it meets the required safety and quality. The department undertakes work across the entire PPE contract portfolio to identify all instances of supplier non-delivery or product quality failures, and to recover costs for undelivered or substandard PPE.

The spokesperson clarified that this broadly referred to all PPE, “not Medpro specifically”, and declined to answer questions about Mediation or Medpro PPE products, saying such details were “commercially sensitive”.

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