Former health minister says Michelle Mone wasn’t honest with him about her PPE Medpro involvement – as it happened | Politics


Former health minister Lord Bethell says Mone wasn’t honest with him about her involvement with PPE Medpro

Lord Bethell, a health minister during Covid, has challenged Michelle Mone’s claim that she told people in government about her links with PPE Medpro at the time it was bidding for contracts. In response to her post on X about Rishi Sunak (see 2.45pm), he posted this.

@MichelleMone wasn’t “honest” about her financial interest to me. She didn’t explain “from the very beginning” about her financial “involvement” – her message below was typical.

It wasn’t in her Register of Interests, as you’d expect it. @RishiSunak is right to take this “very seriously”.

Key events

Afternoon summary

  • Council leaders have warned that well-managed local authorities will start to go bust because today’s settlement for councils in England will not alleviate the crisis they are facing. (See 4.40pm and 5.24pm.) In a statement, Solace, which represents local authority chief executives, said:

Local authorities right across England are facing unprecedented financial pressures – and all the independent analysis makes clear that the problems are systemic, in particular due to rising demand for adults and children’s social care, special educational needs provision and housing services, all accentuated by inflation. The ever-growing number of councils issuing or warning of forthcoming s114 notices underlines the peril we face. Without a genuinely sustainable financial settlement for the sector, it won’t be long before a stream of well-managed authorities start to tip over the edge.

The bare fact is there are very few savings options left. And the cuts that councils are now making to their services in order to remain financially sustainable are only storing up trouble for years ahead – reducing quality of life for our residents in the here and now, but also leading to increasingly complex social problems that cost the public purse much more in the long run. Even worse, the chronic underfunding of our services and our areas will negatively impact our national economic prospects at a time when an upswing in productivity and growth is much needed.

Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting meeting staff
Keir Starmer and the shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, meeting staff during a visit to St James’ University Hospital in Leeds. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Minister tells MPs government ‘not yet in position’ to give details of compensation for victims of infected blood scandal

John Glen, the Cabinet Office minister, has told MPs the government is “not yet in a position” to share any final decisions on compensation for victims of the infected blood scandal.

Two weeks ago the government was defeated on a vote on an amendment to the victims and prisoners bill, saying it must set up a body to administer compensation within three months of the bill becoming law. The government has accepted the moral case for paying compensation, but had wanted to wait until the inquiry into the scandal produced its final report before setting up a scheme.

There are a number of technical issues that must be considered that would have a significant impact on public finances.

It is important any decisions on compensation funding are taken carefully and the house should expect the government to work through the associated costs to the public sector whilst at all times considering the needs of the community and the far-reaching impacts this scandal has had on their lives.

Council leaders say it’s ‘unthinkable’ that Gove did not offer more to plug £4bn black hole in local authority finances

The Local Government Association says councils in England face a £4bn funding gap over the next two years as a result of today’s provisional settlement. (See 4.40pm). In a statement Shaun Davies, chair of the cross-party body, says it is “unthinkable” that councils have not been offered more. He says:

Today’s settlement does not provide enough funding to meet the severe cost and demand pressures which have left councils of all political colours and types warning of the serious challenges they face to set balanced budgets next year. Councils in England continue to face a funding gap of £4bn over the next two years as today’s announcement does not change the funding gap facing councils this year and next.

It is therefore unthinkable that government has not provided desperately needed new funding for local services in 2024/25. Although councils are working hard to reduce costs where possible, this means the local services our communities rely on every day are now exposed to further cuts.

The County Councils Network has delivered a similar verdict. Its finance spokesperson, Barry Lewis, said:

The announcement of the provisional local government finance settlement today will be bitterly disappointing for England’s county authorities. The County Councils Network (CCN) had put together a strong case for emergency funding next year to address the significant financial headwinds councils face which are outside of our control. But despite constructive discussions with ministers over recent days the government has chosen not to act.

With no additional funding announced, our councils will have no choice but to implement more severe reductions to services and to levy higher council tax rises. This will undoubtedly be a double whammy for residents during a cost of living crisis, while an increasing number of local authorities will struggle to deliver a balanced budget next year.

Former health minister Lord Bethell says Mone wasn’t honest with him about her involvement with PPE Medpro

Lord Bethell, a health minister during Covid, has challenged Michelle Mone’s claim that she told people in government about her links with PPE Medpro at the time it was bidding for contracts. In response to her post on X about Rishi Sunak (see 2.45pm), he posted this.

@MichelleMone wasn’t “honest” about her financial interest to me. She didn’t explain “from the very beginning” about her financial “involvement” – her message below was typical.

It wasn’t in her Register of Interests, as you’d expect it. @RishiSunak is right to take this “very seriously”.

A reader asks:

What is the procedure for a Peer to be stripped of their title? And under what circumstances?

According to a House of Lords library note, a peerage can only be removed by an act of parliament, and this has not happened since the first world war, when four people had their peerages removed for supporting the Germans. Until quite recently, the Lords did not even have the power to expel a member for bad behaviour. But that can now happen as a result of the House of Lords (Suspension and Expulsion) Act 2015. The procedure is set out here. In 2020 the Lords conduct committee recommended the expulsion of a peer for sexual exploitation, but he announced his retirement from the Lords before the expulsion vote could take place.

Gove’s £64bn settlement for councils in England dismissed as ‘too little, too late’

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has announced the provisional funding settlement for councils in England in 2024-25. Full details are available on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ website here and the news release is here.

DLUHC says the package is worth more than £64bn. It says:

The provisional local government finance settlement makes available almost £4bn more funding for councils in England in 2024-25, an increase of 6.5% on 2023-24 – an above-inflation rise in recognition of the pressures being faced by local authorities.

The funding guarantee introduced last year will be maintained to ensure every council in England sees at least a 3% increase in core spending power before any local decisions are made around council tax. This decision has been taken in recognition of the pressures being faced by local authorities despite the recent drop in inflation.

And to continue to support councils providing essential adult and children’s social care services, we are making available £1bn in additional grant funding for social care in 2024-25 compared to 2023-24.

Councils will be able to increase council tax by up to 3% without a local referendum with a further 2% for those responsible for adult social care services, with additional flexibilities for some authorities. It is for councils to determine council tax levels, but they should always be mindful of cost-of-living pressures when making any decisions.

The Local Government information Unit (LGiU), a thinktank working for councils, has described this as “too little, too late”. In a statement, Jonathan Carr-West, its chief executive, said:

This year’s provisional financial settlement does not address the severe problems at the heart of local government finance and is simply too little, too late. There is little confidence across the sector in local governments’ financial resilience. In March this year, only 14% of senior council figures said they were confident in the sustainability of local government finances. Since then, three more councils have announced their effective bankruptcy.

The key problem is not the scale of annual financial settlements – although that can make any given year harder or easier for councils to manage. The key issue is with the long-term resilience of the sector …

The severe systemic problems faced across English local government can only be addressed through multi-year financial settlements based on need, more fiscal flexibility for councils in both how they raise and spend money, and most crucially of all – engagement between central and local government as equal partners dedicated to delivering essential services.

A system where local governments only find out how much money they have for a year, without significant consultation, and with limited capacity to change their own financial position, can never succeed in meeting the long-term needs of the sector.

Lib Dems demand inquiry into what ministers knew about Mone’s involvement with PPE Medpro

The Liberal Democrats say that the latest comments from Michelle Mone (see 2.45pm) have highlighted the need for the government to say what it knew about her involvement with PPE Medpro. Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, said an inquiry was needed to establish the facts. In a statement she said:

The endless stream of allegations and disclosures surrounding this Conservative government is painful. The more this scandal unfolds the more serious the questions for Michael Gove and other ministers to answer.

If they knew about Michelle Mone’s connections to the PPE contracts from the beginning, why didn’t they come clean years ago?

We need an urgent, independent inquiry into what happened at the Cabinet Office over these contracts. What did ministers know when, and what exactly did they say to Michelle Mone or anyone else involved?

There has been some confusion today about whether or not Michelle Mone is still a Conservative party peer.

The Tories say she is not even a party member. But, as Pippa Crerar points out, the House of Lords website does list Mone as a Conservative peer.

Baroness Michelle Mone is *still* a Tory peer, according to the House of Lords website.

She isn’t getting the Tory whip by default as she’s on a leave of absence but there has been no sanction against her, thus the listing 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/FpVw9SNOXa

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) December 18, 2023

The PM’s press sec told us on 7/12/23: “She’s taken a leave of absence therefore, by default, she has not got the Conservative whip any more.”

But she’s still listed as a Tory peer on HoL website. It has to happen formally, rather than by default, for it to technically count!

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) December 18, 2023

Last year, following the publication of a Guardian story saying Mone could personally benefit from the PPE Medpro deal, she took leave of absence from the Lords. At the time the PM’s press secretary said that that meant Mone had had the whip withdrawn “by default” (or, in other words, that she withdrew the whip from herself).

As Pippa suggests, if Rishi Sunak is taking this “incredibly seriously” (see 11.23am), you might expect a more robust approach from the Lords whips.

Keir Starmer (white shirt) and Wes Streeting (blue shirt) talking to staff in the Bexley Wing of St James' University Hospital in Leeds today.
Keir Starmer (white shirt) and Wes Streeting (blue shirt) talking to staff in the Bexley Wing of St James’ University Hospital in Leeds today. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

New disability minister Mims Davies insists downgrading of role will make no difference to work done for people

Mims Davies was last week appointed minister for disabled people, health and work. It was a sideways move from her previous job at the Department for Work and Pensions (minister for social mobility, youth and progression) and charities complained that she was combining responsibility for disabled people with other responsibilities. Previously there was a dedicated minister for disabled people (Tom Pursglove, who is now minister for legal migration).

During DWP questions, Vicky Foxcroft, the shadow minister for disabled people, asked Davies:

When her new role was finally announced, it had been downgraded from minister of state to parliamentary under-secretary. What message does she think this sends to disabled people? And will she push to be made minister of state like her predecessor?

In response, Davies insisted that the change in status would make no difference to the support offered to disabled people. She said:

Absolutely delighted to respond and to make it clear to the lobby, and those people we are talking about and we’re looking after, that this makes no material difference to their day-to-day life, there is no difference in my convening power, there is no difference in the day-to-day work.

This is not about rank. We are sent to serve the people in this house, to engage and listen, and I will be doing that whatever the title or rank is.

Last week Mims posted this on X to try to assure people that she was qualified for the role.

My Dad lived with head injury for over 25 years, as a result we were on benefits. I was the Charities Minister & have co chaired the APPG for carers & this has been a passion of mine, I’ve been at DWP since July 2019 & I know the teams, policymakers & JCPs. Be assured I get it

My Dad lived with head injury for over 25 years, as a result we were on benefits. I was the Charities Minister & have co chaired the APPG for carers & this has been a passion of mine, I’ve been at DWP since July 2019 & I know the teams, policymakers & JCPs. Be assured I get it

— Mims Davies MP (@mimsdavies) December 15, 2023

Home Office announces plans to ensure police and door staff do more to tackle spiking

Early this evening there will be a Commons statement on new measures to tackle spiking in England and Wales. The Home Office has already issued a news release summarising the proposals, which mostly focus on ensuring that cases of spiking are properly identified and investigated. The Home Office says:

The new package will see changes to the legislation, research into self-testing kits, more training for door staff and better education for young people, to raise awareness about the threat. There will also be coordinated police action to crack down on spiking during key weeks of the year – an approach that has proved successful in tackling other crimes, such as knife crime.

The step up to tackle spiking comes as the government prepares to clarify under the criminal justice bill, that without any doubt, spiking is illegal. It will be backed with separate guidance, set in law, to provide a clear, unequivocal definition of what spiking is. This will give victims renewed confidence to come forward, increase public awareness of the crime and enforce that perpetrators will face up to 10 years behind bars.

In an earlier message on X, Michelle Mone also suggested that, if anyone was to blame for the government overspending on PPE, it was Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister during Covid and now levelling up secretary, and Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health.

Michael Gove and Sir Chris Wormald approved the purchase of 5 years supply of PPE when the remit was to build up only 4 months. They oversaw huge waste in PPE contracts. They have both had questions to answer for a very long time.

Michael Gove and Sir Chris Wormald approved the purchase of 5 years supply of PPE when the remit was to build up only 4 months.

They oversaw huge waste in PPE contracts. They have both had questions to answer for a very long time.

— Lady Michelle Mone (@MichelleMone) December 18, 2023

Michelle Mone criticises Sunak over his comments about her involvement in PPE contracts

Michelle Mone has criticised Rishi Sunak over his comment this morning about her involvement in Covid PPE procurement contracts that are being investigated by the National Crime Agency. (See 11.23am.) Repeating a point she made in her BBC interview yesterday, she claimed that she had never concealed her link to PPE Medpro from officials dealing with the contract – even though she did in the same interview admit that she had lied to journalists about the connection.

What is @RishiSunak talking about?

I was honest with the Cabinet Office, the Government and the NHS in my dealings with them.

They all knew about my involvement from the very beginning.

What is @RishiSunak talking about?

I was honest with the Cabinet Office, the Government and the NHS in my dealings with them.

They all knew about my involvement from the very beginning. https://t.co/GOtB2QN7Uu

— Lady Michelle Mone (@MichelleMone) December 18, 2023

Starmer calls for sustainable ceasefire in Gaza ‘as quickly as possible’

Keir Starmer has said there needs to be a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza as quickly as possible.

Speaking on a visit to a hospital in Leeds, he said:

We need to get to a sustainable ceasefire as quickly as possible.

And, I think the route to that is to get back to where we were just two weeks ago, where hostilities ceased, there’s an opening that allows the remaining hostages to be freed, which they must be straight away – allows humanitarian aid to get in – desperately needed – but, also, is a foot-in-the-door to a process, it will have to be a political process, to a two-stage solution which, in the end, is the only way that this is going to be resolved.

A sustainable ceasefire is what everyone should be arguing for, certainly what we’re arguing for, and, if we can get as much support for that as possible, I think that’s the most realistic way forward.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer on a visit to the theatre recovery ward in the Bexley Wing of St James’s University hospital in Leeds. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Scotland’s deputy FM hits back at Sunak over taxes, saying SNP, unlike Tories, will prioritise public services

Shona Robison, Scotland’s deputy first minister and finance secretary, has said Rishi Sunak has “a bit of a cheek” lecturing the Scottish government on public spending.

She was speaking after the PM used an interview in Scotland this morning to say that reports saying Robison plans to raise taxes for higher earners in her budget tomorrow are “very disappointing”. (See 12.44pm.)

In response, Robison said the UK government’s decision to cut national insurance in its recent autumn statement was “pre-election positioning by the Tories, entirely at the expense of public services”. She said the autumn statement provided just £10.8m extra for the NHS in Scotland next year.

She said:

What I would say to Rishi Sunak is he has got a bit of a cheek, pitching up in Scotland to say anything given his autumn statement is deprioritising public spending.

To have a real-terms cut to the NHS in England is an astonishing position at a time when services are still recovering from Covid.

Clearly that’s not something we can follow and wouldn’t want to follow.

She said the Scottish government, unlike its UK counterpart, would prioritise investment in public services. “Our values, first and foremost, are about making sure we sustain our public services,” she said.

Shona Robison being interviewed during a visit to the Larder Cafe in Broxburn, West Lothian
Shona Robison being interviewed during a visit to the Larder Cafe in Broxburn, West Lothian, on Monday. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Tories will lose next election unless they commit to leaving ECHR, New Conservative co-chairs say

The Tories will lose the next election unless they commit to leaving the European convention on human rights, the leaders of the rightwing New Conservatives group have said.

Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates are co-chairs of the New Conservatives group, which represents Tory MPs pushing for less immigration, lower taxes and socially conservative family policies. In an interview with the Inside Whitehall podcast, which is hosted by Jonathan Gullis MP (a member of the New Conservatives) and James Starkie, a former Tory special adviser, they were asked if the next leader of the party would come from their group.

Kruger replied:

I think they will be New Conservative in philosophy; whether they are one of our current members or not ….

I don’t think we will ever get back into power if we go out of power. And frankly I think we are going to struggle at the next election without this [the New Conservative policy approach] as well.

So I think the next election we win will be one in which we are standing to leave the ECHR (European convention on human rights), to restore sanity, quite deliberately, in these culture questions, particularly around sex and gender, and also around what goes on in schools.

Kruger also said that other new policy approaches were needed to make the party electorally attractive. He went on:

I would see us investing much more in defence. I think we’ve got to be much more realistic about what technology means for the world of work and for ordinary family life. There is a bunch of stuff that is off the radar at the moment, outside the Overton window in our politics, that we need to just get real about.

And if we can do it this side of the election, I think we’ve got a really good chance of holding on. If we go out, yes, in answer to your question, it would have to be someone who believes in this stuff if we were ever to win power again. Because there is no point just trying to contest the centre ground with Labour.

Asked if she agreed with Kruger’s assessment, Cates simply replied: “Yes.”

Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates leaving Downing Street
Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates leaving Downing Street last week, after they and other rightwing Tory MPs held a breakfast meeting with Rishi Sunak to discuss the Rwanda bill. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

Starmer says Michelle Mone should be removed from Lords permanently

Keir Starmer has said that Lady Mone, the former Tory peer involved in Covid PPE contracts that are being investigated by the National Crime Agency, should be thrown out of the House of Lords.

Mone is now on leave of absence from the Lords, but could in theory return. She denies wrongdoing in relation to the contracts, but admitted at the weekend that she lied when she claimed that she was not involved in the firm that won the contracts.

Asked if Mone should be expelled from the Lords, Starmer said:

I don’t think she should be in the Lords. I think the government should be held to account for this.

Starmer also said that Michael Gove, who was Cabinet Office minister during Covid and who is now levelling up secretary, should answer questions about his role in the affair.

I think this is a shocking disgrace from top to bottom. And, as every day goes past, there are more questions that need to be answered. There’s now suggestions there was early private contact with members of the cabinet that may have started this unhappy story in the first place …

There are now serious questions that I think Michael Gove, the government, needs to answer.

Mone contacted Gove when she wanted to ensure that PPE Medpro could be considered for contracts via the so-called “VIP lane”, a system allowing ministers to earmark bids for consideration by officials at a time when the Whitehall procurement system was at risk of being swamped by offers.

The government has claimed this did not amount to favouritism because decisions to award contracts were made by civil servants, not ministers.

Mone was appointed to the Lords as a Conservative peer, but has now had the whip withdrawn and left the party.

There will be one urgent question in the Commons today at 3.30pm, on the Jimmy Lai trial in Hong Kong, followed by three ministerial statements, first on the fighter jet treaty with Japan and Italy, then on the infected blood inquiry, and finally on measures to stop spiking.

Sunak says it will be ‘very disappointing’ if Scottish government goes ahead with plan to raise tax for higher earners

Shona Robison, Scotland’s finance secretary and deputy first minister, will unveil the Scottish government’s budget tomorrow. There has been speculation, which she refused to deny in a TV interview yesterday, that she will raise taxes for people earning more than £75,000 in Scotland.

Speaking to journalists at RAF Lossiemouth today, Rishi Sunak said a tax increase of this kind would be “very disappointing” for people in Scotland. He said:

The first thing I’d say is the UK government has provided a record amount of funding to the Scottish government through the Barnett formula, so they’re ultimately responsible for the finances here in Scotland.

But I can tell you what we’re doing in the UK is controlling spending and cutting people’s taxes and that’s going to kick in for everyone in Scotland and across the UK, a reduction in the rate of national insurance from 12% to 10% from January. That will save a typical person in work around £450 – it’s a significant tax cut.

So that’s what the UK government is doing to help Scottish families with the cost of living, which we know is a priority for them.

But ultimately, it’s the Scottish government that are responsible for their own finances – it’s already the highest taxed part of the UK and obviously it would be very disappointing to see that tax burden continue to rise in Scotland.

The Scottish government has the power to set its own income tax rates and it has become increasingly willing to diverge from the rates paid in England and the rest of the UK. Outside Scotland there are three rates of income tax – a basic rate, at 20%; a higher rate, at 40%; and a top rate, at 45%. The Scottish system is more progressive, with the lower paid being taxed less, but the higher paid facing higher rates. It has five rates: 19%, 20%, 21%, 42% and 47%.

It has been reported that the Scottish government will tomorrow announce the addition of a new rate, at 44%, for earnings between £75,000 and £125,000.





Source link

Rate this post

Leave a Comment