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Cameron broke convention when he made Michelle Mone a peer, says Tory MP | David Cameron


David Cameron

David Mundell says Scotland Office was not consulted about Mone’s 2015 appointment

Thu 25 Jan 2024 14.00 CET

David Cameron breached “proper process” when he appointed Michelle Mone to the House of Lords in 2015, David Mundell, who was the secretary for Scotland at the time, has said.

Mundell, the Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, said Lord Cameron appointed Mone without Downing Street consulting the government’s Scotland Office, which is standard practice before awarding peerages to Scots.

Cameron, recently appointed to the Lords himself, and other Westminster Tories had been impressed by Mone when she backed the union in the Scottish independence referendum. She was already well known in Scotland through her lingerie business, Ultimo.

Mundell, who was the secretary for Scotland from 2015 to 2019, said some Scottish businesspeople were unhappy with Mone’s peerage, but he did not have an opportunity to discuss it until after Cameron had confirmed the appointment.

“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.

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

Shortly before giving her a peerage in August 2015, Cameron made Mone his “entrepreneurship tsar”, and she was appointed to lead a review for Iain Duncan Smith, then the work and pensions minister, on supporting people in deprived areas to set up businesses.

The government’s announcement described her as a “leading entrepreneur and businesswomen [sic]”. Later the same month, Cameron made her a Conservative life peer in his 2015 dissolution honours list, the official citation describing her as a “leading entrepreneur”.

The peerage, carrying the title Baroness Mone of Mayfair, was controversial at the time and the subject of outspoken criticism by some Scottish businesspeople.

Douglas Anderson, the managing director of the Glasgow-based plant hire company Gap Group, gave his views in strong terms in a letter to Cameron after reading initial press reports that a peerage was being considered. Anderson pointed out that published financial accounts of the Ultimo company showed it had been making losses and been in financial difficulties, and that in 2013 it had been rescued by a Sri Lankan clothing manufacturer, MAS Holdings.

“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 Mone said 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”. She was “proud of her achievements”, the spokesperson 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.”

Holac’s role is to vet people nominated as peers “for propriety”, and can withhold support if there are legal or regulatory issues, such as an outstanding tax investigation.

Cameron did not respond to an invitation to comment. A Cabinet Office spokesperson pointed out that all peerages were vetted by Holac.

Mone, 52, with her husband, Doug Barrowman, 58, is facing a National Crime Agency investigation into the procurement of £203m of government PPE contracts during the Covid pandemic for PPE Medpro. Both now 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, including Tory peers, after Mone approached the Cabinet Office ministers Michael Gove and Theodore Agnew, offering to supply personal protective equipment.



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