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The government is in dispute over millions of surgical gowns supplied by the PPE industry which were awarded £ 203million contracts via the fast-track ‘VIP route’ following a referral from Conservative colleague Michelle Mone, a he emerged.

Health Minister Edward Argar has broken more than a year of secrecy over surgical gowns provided by PPE company Medpro, telling deputy labor chief Angela Rayner this week that the government was “in mediation” with the company.

Previously, the last solid information provided on Medpro PPE products was in December 2020, when the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) said, “The gowns delivered by MedPro [sic] were not distributed on the front line.

DHSC sources then said the gowns – delivered by PPE Medpro under its second contract, for £ 122million – were still ‘assessed’ to ensure they met safety and quality standards. .

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

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

The VIP route was declared illegal by the High Court this week, following a challenge from the Good Law Project, with Justice O’Farrell ruling that it violated the obligation to treat potential suppliers as a matter of course. ‘equality.

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

Asked by Rayner to clarify how this was considered the case, the minister provided his response 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 commitments.

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, which works for Barrowman on the Isle of Man, has confirmed that mediation is ongoing on the dresses, saying through a lawyer that ‘”a dispute had arisen several months after delivery”.

The lawyer said: “Our client is vigorously defending their position regarding the supply of the dresses which were delivered on time, at a very competitive price and in full compliance with the contract.”

He said the masks supplied by PPE Medpro – under its first £ 80.85million contract – “were all made without any challenge at any time.”

Rayner said: “This government wasted millions of dollars on cronyism deals distributed through the VIP channel, which the High Court found not only fishy but downright illegal.

“No wonder they are desperate to cover up the facts. But hiding behind the guise of commercial sensibility just doesn’t go with the public, whose money they were spending. We need to know if this PPE has actually been used to protect NHS staff and what the government is doing to recover taxpayer money if it was not. “

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

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

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