UK awards Burberry £1.8m in coronavirus contracts

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - More than 100 years since Burberry first kitted out Britain’s troops with trench coats, the fashion house has once again come to the nation’s aid after being secretly awarded more than £1.8 million (dh8.45m) in coronavirus contracts.

The UK government has used its emergency powers to automatically award the label three major contracts to produce gowns and facemasks without putting them out to public tender.

Earlier this year, Burberry turned its trench coat factory in the Yorkshire town of Castleford into a facility to manufacture medical clothing and donated thousands of pieces of equipment to the national cause.

Ad for Burberry's Service Outrigs, 1918. Getty Images
Ad for Burberry's Service Outrigs, 1918. Getty Images

It has now been revealed that the government has awarded it three contracts worth £1,806,000 to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for the National Health Service (NHS), two separate tenders for £573,000 for gowns and £660,000 for masks, to be delivered by the end of the year.

The contracts, which have been made public only in the past week, were awarded in June and July.

A cyclist passes the Burberry Group Plc factory in Castleford, U.K., on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The U.K. ran the risks running out of protective equipment for its hospital staff as half the doctors working in high-risk areas reported supply shortages in an April survey by the British Medical Association. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
A cyclist passes the Burberry Group Plc factory in Castleford, U.K., on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The U.K. ran the risks running out of protective equipment for its hospital staff as half the doctors working in high-risk areas reported supply shortages in an April survey by the British Medical Association. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

They are among more than £1bn in contracts to have been secretly awarded to private companies dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, without offering other firms the chance to bid for the work.

Ministers have suspended the UK’s standard fair competition rules to enable contracts to be issued “with extreme urgency”.

Burberry told The National that it is supplying the vital equipment at cost price.

“We’re proud to extend the support we have provided to the national relief effort by manufacturing personal protective equipment and supplying it at cost,” a Burberry spokesperson said.

“Earlier this year, we donated more than 160,000 pieces of PPE to the NHS and healthcare charities that we manufactured at our trench coat factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, and sourced through our supply chain.

“We are very pleased to be able to continue to help by using our production line to make non-surgical gowns and masks for medical and care workers.”

In April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised Burberry for its help in supplying the NHS.

“I'll give a shout-out to Burberry who have turned over their production to the production of gowns to add to the stockpile and to get PPE to people who need it which is another part of the national effort,” Mr Hancock said.

“I think Burberry deserve credit for what they've done so far for the nation and hopefully lots more Burberry gowns to come.”

When it first made the transition to PPE manufacture, Burberry provided equipment for free to the NHS and also to charities such as Marie Curie.

Burberry’s CEO Marco Gobbetti said in a statement that it was imperative to pull together during challenging times.

“The whole team at Burberry is very proud to be able to support those who are working tirelessly to combat Covid-19, whether by treating patients, working to find a vaccine solution or helping provide food supplies to those in need at this time,” Mr Gobbetti said.

A machinist sews a protective gown for a worker in the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) at the Burberry Group Plc factory in Castleford, U.K., on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The U.K. ran the risks running out of protective equipment for its hospital staff as half the doctors working in high-risk areas reported supply shortages in an April survey by the British Medical Association. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
A machinist sews a protective gown for a worker in the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) at the Burberry Group Plc factory in Castleford, U.K., on Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The U.K. ran the risks running out of protective equipment for its hospital staff as half the doctors working in high-risk areas reported supply shortages in an April survey by the British Medical Association. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Last month, Burberry launched a new collection of £90 reusable face masks in its signature beige check pattern, becoming one of the first major designer clothing brand to enter into mask fashion.

It is donating all the profits from each sale to its Foundation Covid-19 Community Fund, operated by The Burberry Foundation, which continues to provide PPE as well as assistance to food banks and healthcare charities globally.

Updated: September 11, 2020 02:53 PM

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