Much of the focus last week was once again away from the House of Commons. This time it was just along the Westminster corridors in the House of Lords. The allegations that Tory Peer Michelle Mone received £29 million through contracts arranged for PPE equipment were described by the Prime Minister as “absolutely shocking”. I think most of us would view that as an understatement to say the least.
Most folk would find themselves suspended, if not instantly dismissed, if just £29 went missing from their till or they were viewed as having claimed it inappropriately. She’s allowed to go on leave of absence. That, of course, allows the Tories to avoid withdrawing the whip from her. If it had been a benefit overclaim or even fraud, not only would it be recouped but sanctions and even prosecution would likely follow.
The PM said due process has to be followed but many feel that much more needs done. Why were contracts for vital equipment given to individuals with little experience and as it proved little skill in manufacturing what was required. No wonder reputable firms who missed out are livid. It does seem that it was who you knew not what you knew that mattered.
Why did she get that astonishing amount and why was it apparently paid it into a trust? Well, we can probably guess the reason for the latter. It’s so to avoid tax. Anyone else getting a payment of even say £2,900 or £29,000 would pay tax upon it. But in a trust that could be avoided or substantially reduced. The saga stinks and is endemic of a crony culture and of one law for the rich and another for the rest of us.
It also exposes the sham of the House of Lords. There are some good folk there but many more who shouldn’t be. In any event an unelected institution’s an anachronism. Labour pledges to abolish it may be welcome though timescale and intent remain in serious doubt. After all the same pledge as Keir Starmer’s was made by Keir Hardie over a century ago.