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Cameron breached proper process in appointing Michelle Mone, says Tory grandee

A former Scotland secretary has accused David Cameron of breaching “proper process” when he gave Michelle Mone a peerage in 2015, the Guardian has reported.

David Mundell, the Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said Lord Cameron gave Baronness Mone a position in the House of Lords without Street consulting the government’s Scotland Office, which is standard practice before awarding peerages to Scots.

Mr Mundell, who was the secretary of state for Scotland from 2015 to 2019, said there was some opposition to Lady Mone’s among Scottish business people, but he was not given the standard opportunity to discuss his concerns with Downing Street.

Lady Mone and her husband, Doug Barrowman are facing a National Crime Agency investigation into the procurement of £203m of government PPE contracts during the Covid pandemic for PPE Medpro. Both admit involvement in the company but deny any wrongdoing.

The PPE Medpro contracts were awarded in 2020 via the government’s “VIP lane” for politically connected people after Mone approached the Cabinet Office ministers Michael Gove and Theodore Agnew, offering to supply personal protective equipment.

David Mundell served as Secretary of State for Scotland (PA Archive)
David Mundell served as Secretary of State for Scotland (PA Archive)

Baronness Mone was appointed to the Lords after Lord Cameron, who was brought in as foreign secretary by Rishi Sunak, was impressed by Baronness Mone when she backed the union in the Scottish independence referendum. She was also the founder of a successful lingerie business, Ultimo.

“The peerage was a fait accompli by the time we heard about it,” Mundell said. “I was unhappy that the proper process was not followed and that the Scotland Office was not asked to provide any background or input.

“And I wasn’t at all surprised to find that Scottish businesses were very, very unhappy about the appointment.

Baronness Mone is under criminal investigation for her involvement in a procurement scandal (PA Wire)
Baronness Mone is under criminal investigation for her involvement in a procurement scandal (PA Wire)

“I did communicate with Downing Street that Scottish business figures were unhappy because they did not consider Michelle Mone to be a substantial businesswoman.”

Lord Cameron had brough Baroness Mone into government in 2015 as his “entrepreneurship tsar” and she lead a review on supporting people in deprived areas to set up businesses.

Cameron then made her a Conservative life peer in his 2015 dissolution honours list, describing her as a “leading entrepreneur”.

Douglas Anderson, the managing director of the Glasgow-based plant hire company Gap Group, wrote a strongly worded letter to Cameron after reading reports that a peerage was being considered:

Doug Barrowman and Michelle Mone have admitted their involve with PPE Medro (PA Media)
Doug Barrowman and Michelle Mone have admitted their involve with PPE Medro (PA Media)

“Ms Mone is not a successful entrepreneur, she is a small-time businesswoman with a PR exposure far in excess of any actual success,” Anderson wrote. “Awarding her a peerage for a very mediocre business performance brings the awarding of titles into disrepute by rewarding failure.”

A spokesperson for Baroness Mone has told the Guardian that the business woman is “proud of her achievements”, saying: “[she] came from a working-class family in Glasgow’s East End and worked hard to become a successful entrepreneur, building one of the biggest independent lingerie brands in the world”.

They added: “Michelle was honoured to be asked to join the House of Lords by David Cameron after her role in the Scottish referendum campaign. Her appointment was duly vetted by Holac [the House of Lords appointments commission] at the time.”

David Cameron has refused requests to comment.