Baroness Mone ‘is her own worst enemy’ – Sir Tom Hunter

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Sir Tom was appearing on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme

Sir Tom Hunter has described Baroness Mone as her “own worst enemy” over her involvement with personal protective equipment deals during the pandemic.

The businessman and philanthropist invested in Baroness Mone’s early ventures and was asked about her on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.

He called her previous interview with Kuenssberg in December a “car crash”.

Sir Tom said the baroness was not the only one to benefit from PPE contracts.

His comments came a month after the interview in which Baroness Mone said she stood to benefit from tens of millions of pounds of profit from personal protective equipment (PPE) sold to the UK government during the pandemic by a company led by her husband, Doug Barrowman.

The couple apologised for denying their role in the deal for more than three years, though Baroness Mone said they had done nothing wrong.

The company, PPE Medpro, was awarded government contracts worth more than £200m to supply PPE to the NHS during the pandemic through a so-called “VIP lane”, introduced to help the government choose between huge numbers of supplier offers.

In November 2021, the government revealed that Baroness Mone was the “source of referral” for PPE Medpro getting a place in the VIP lane.

Millions of protective gowns the company supplied were never used but the couple say these were supplied in accordance with the contract.

PPE Medpro is now being sued by the UK government for £122m plus costs for “breach of contract and unjust enrichment”.

Baroness Mone and Doug Barrowman spoke to Laura Kuenssberg in December

Sir Tom said on Sunday that he knew Baroness Mone when she was first starting out in business.

Asked by Kuenssberg whether she had been treated fairly, he said: “I think she’s her own worst enemy. You know, it was a car-crash interview. Why did she decide to do it?

“You must be very persuasive but she is not the only one who benefited.

“If I had been running the government, which thank God I’m not, I would have said, can you help us but I’m putting a cap on the profits that you can make because there’s something above profit here’.

“Our country is in dire straits. We need your help as entrepreneurs but let’s cap the profits we can make.”

Government criticism

Sir Tom, who was born and brought up in Ayrshire, started Sports Division in 1984. He later sold it and went on to build a property and equity business which made him a fortune once estimated at over £1bn.

He runs a charitable foundation and continues to invest in companies.

He also criticised the UK government’s handling of pandemic procurement.

“Let’s put it in context, when the pandemic hit there was not one person in the world who knew how to deal with it because there wasn’t a living soul who had lived through a pandemic,” he said.

“And therefore the government, in my opinion, panicked. But I understand the panic and there wasn’t enough PPE and there was this VIP lane which probably on paper looked OK.

“But then it turns out that it’s friends of government ministers who went down, who maybe hadn’t made this thing in the past.”

The BBC has approached Baroness Mone for comment.

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