Rachel Reeves Sends the Government on a Wild PPE Goose Chase

Rachel Reeves has sent a letter to the Government criticising PPE procurement to date and attaching what she insists is a helpful list of companies offering to help supply the national effort. Closer inspection shows the letter to contain duplicate providers, and be include some less than helpful, Del Boy-ish time-wasting chancers. Guido has looked into what potential PPE providers Labour is asking the Government to explore…

  • A football agent company run by a professional football agent offering to provide “ventilators”. Really?
  • A historical clothing company offering to make up to 175 gowns a week – or fewer than one gown per hospital per week. Its products currently include a sixteenth century silk bodice. Gowns need to be single use and made to advanced, exacting specifications from specific fabrics. Guido’s not sure this is where the Government should be spending time chasing up…
  • A lady called Bella Gonshorovitz who makes clothes to measure and has a Go Fund Me page offering to make up to 500 gowns a week. Just under 1.5 per hospital per week. Does she really have the medically approved resources for this specialist task?
  • The Whent, a Company that exists to reduce dependence on plastic, peculiarly offering to produce tests and also gloves. Medical gloves must be made to exacting specifications and are largely made of plastic. The company currently makes canned mineral water but is now offering to make Covid tests…
  • An events company in Surrey offering “supplying masks and respirators from China”. The company claims to provide the “ultimate corporate day experience…[with] delicious cuisine from sushi to sandwiches, hot and cold buffets, BBQ, breakfast, snacks and lunch”. Great, just no mention of advanced medical equipment like respirators…
  • A private legal practice in Birmingham with only two employees and no website offering to provide scrubs and gowns. How?..
  • A provider of ‘wholesale electronic and telecommunications parts and equipment’ that doesn’t appear to be an active company has offered to provide 250,000 plastic aprons and masks as well as hand sanitiser. They don’t even have a website…
  • One company only incorporated in February 2020 that has only one director and shareholder. There’s no evidence of it ever having conducted any business…

Reeves is pointing Government resources towards suppliers Guido is sure are mostly well-meaning people, unfortunately offering nowhere near the the quality or quantity of products needed. Labour’s lack of due diligence on the firms recommended in the letter is the opposite of ‘constructive opposition’. It looks to Guido more like a hastily put together attempt to cause political embarrassment, and it’s quickly falling apart…

Read Rachel’s letter in full below:

Dear Michael, 
Since my letter to you at the weekend, I have been contacted by a great number of UK manufacturing and textiles companies who state that they have the capacity to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment and have contacted the Government to offer to do so, but have heard nothing back.
As the Labour Party have made clear, we want to help the Government in the national effort to defeat the Coronavirus, and that is why I wanted to pass the details of these offers on to you at the earliest opportunity.
You and your officials and those at the Department for Health and Social Care will be best placed to validate what capability and capacity these firms have, but as they have not received a reply after contacting the Government, I wanted to ensure that the Cabinet Office was aware of them.
Of these firms, if just one, five or 10 were able to contribute to the national effort of ensuring that our NHS and care workers – and indeed anybody who needs to use some form of Personal Protective Equipment and clothing – could be better protected, or just one hospital or care home were able to access adequate supplies of the PPE they need, I know you will agree that that would go a long way and make a big difference.
Unique Disposables in Bolton; the Appeal Group in Bristol, and Network Medical Products in Ripon are among the firms that have offered to provide items of essential protective equipment in the tens of thousands.
Some firms that I have heard from, such as CQM Learning, based in Sheffield, have been dealing with hospitals, care homes, other care providers, GP surgeries and pharmacies directly, despite having no response from Government. And, despite acute concerns within our health service about our depleting stock of protective visions, CQM were extremely surprised to be asked to export 20,000 visors this week.
I have spoken this week to a number of medical professionals who are hugely concerned about diminishing supplies of full-length gowns, masks, and protective visors, and about the implications for their own health and – most of all – for their loved ones. Workers in social care, too, are desperate for the equipment they need and, in far too many cases, have not yet seen.
It is clear that far more needs to be done to procure adequate supplies of PPE, and that the Government’s existing approach of relying on importing PPE from overseas and turning to big-name UK manufacturers is not delivering the supply that is needed.
I would therefore like to ask:
  • How many companies have contacted the government to offer to manufacture PPE?
  • How many of these offers have been replied to?
  • How many of these businesses have been commissioned to manufacture PPE, and what forms? Please list each business, the volumes manufactured by each business and the dates the government made and received the orders.
  • What measures have been taken to ensure these offers are processed and responded to more quickly?
We need Government to strain every sinew and utilise untapped resources in UK manufacturing, to deliver essential equipment to frontline workers. This must be a national effort which leaves no stone unturned.
As an appendix to this letter, I enclose details of these companies and their offers.
Yours sincerely,
Rachel Reeves
Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Company Location Offer
CQM Learning Sheffield 8,000 face shields per day
RDD Creative Leicester 8,000 face shields per day
The Appeal Group Ltd Bristol 10,000 plastic shields each week
Isaa Exchange Ltd Birmingham 250,000 plastic aprons, masks
Network Medical Products Ripon 100,000 face visors per week
Bella Gonshorovitz Unknown 500 gowns per week
Island Canvas Isle of Wight Scrubs and gowns
G Fashion Croydon Face masks
Bones and Rozes Historical Clothing Sheffield 100–175 gowns per week
Highbury Design Nottingham Face shields
London Tradition London Scrubs and gowns
The Whent Bath Gowns, masks, gloves, visors, tests
GNS Legal Ltd Birmingham Scrubs and gowns
C L Rye Trading Ltd Southend Supplying masks and gowns from Germany
Diecut Global Preston PPE equipment
Windles Group Manufacturing Thame Visors
Unitech Newport PPE
HPE Consultancy Ltd Leeds Masks, gowns, scrubs, hand gel, ventilators
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