Inside celeb chef’s stunning new seafront venue

A sneak peek inside Exmouth’s new seafront casual seafront bar, restaurant and café has been revealed.

It has attracted mixed comments on the devonlive web-site including: 

“Looks like school dinner hall which I did my best to avoid”

A brave experiment, but will it regenerate Exmouth? – Owl

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Exeter celebrity chef Michael Caines will open Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant alongside Sylvain Peltier and Michael’s Café Patisserie Glacerie in March 2021 as part of the Exmouth seafront regeneration project.

The project will incorporate a casual bar complete with resident weekend DJs, first floor destination restaurant with a glasshouse and outdoor terraces alongside neighbouring Café Patisserie Glacerie which will serve serve artisan pastries and ice-creams.

The opening hours will change with the seasons. Summer will see Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week across each of the various outlets.

Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant in Exmouth

During the cooler months, breakfast will be served on weekends only with lunch and dinner available daily throughout the week.

Michael said: “Mickeys has been in development for five years and I am so excited to see the building finally come to life.

“The interior space, designed with Design Command, is fun, vibrant and in-tune with its surrounds and has the most remarkable views across the bay of Lyme.

Mickeys Beach Bar in Exmouth

“Mickeys will be a place to celebrate, to unwind, to pop-in for a takeaway or stay late into the night, underpinned by warm hospitality and excellent food.

“It is a space for the local community and beyond, above all its place of fun. I’m incredibly excited to be able to share more over the coming months as we approach the opening.”

The restaurant will offer a relaxed dining experience inspired by its maritime location and produce sourced from the South West. The ground floor bar is complimented by a seascape colour palette and large rough-stone statement bar.

It offers family and dog friendly spaces, delicious foods to eat in or takeaway or a place to simply relax and enjoy cocktails.

Café Patisserie Glacerie in Exmouth

The scheme at the waterfront has been developed by Grenadier Estates. The building itself has used sustainable materials and harnesses renewable energy technologies.

In keeping with Michael’s ethos of local and seasonal produce, Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant will source local produce to support the local community of food producers and farmers, reduce food miles and promote biodiversity.

The café, bar and restaurant will each operate in keeping with the green ethos of the project with a commitment not to use single-use plastics.

Adjacent to Mickeys Beach Bar and Restaurant will be Michael and Sylvain Peltier’s first Café Patisserie Glacerie franchise.

It will showcase the creations of Sylvain and Michael, including fresh French patisseries, house-made gelato ice-cream, artisan coffee, milk-shakes and available for grab and go hot pies and Cornish pasties, sandwiches and salads.

Patisserie chef Sylvain Peltier, who spent 10 years working as head pastry chef with Michael Caines at Michelin-starred restaurant Gidleigh Park, said: “I am proud and excited to be opening with Michael our first Café Patisserie Glacerie on the beautiful Exmouth seafront.

“This has been a dream of ours for the past 15 years and seeing the project come together is mind blowing. Being able to share your passion with others is an invaluable gift and we cannot wait to soon share it with you all.”

For further information including booking enquiries and project updates, please visit www.mickeybeach.co.uk [appears not yet operational – Owl]

Britain’s biggest businesses have a vision for the South West

Britain’s biggest business organisation has demanded an end to the “inequalities” which hold back the Westcountry when the nation rebounds from the coronavirus crisis.

Yawn – the needle’s got stuck in the same groove again by the same old voices. We need new blood with a much wider economic experience and a bit of political fervour. 

Susan Davy, the chief executive of one of the South West’s biggest businesses, South West Water owner Pennon, is also the CBI South West chair.  Says it all. – Owl

William Telford www.cornwalllive.com

The CBI echoes calls made by the Back the Great South West campaign – supported by CornwallLive, DevonLive, PlymouthLive and our print sister titles including the Western Morning News – when it calls today for targeted action to boost skills and develop physical and digital infrastructure in the Westcountry.

The campaign has been supported by the Local Enterprises Partnerships, local authority leaders and MPs across the South West.

The CBI warns that without investment there are grave risks that disparities across the regions of Britain could widen, damaging the recovery and the long-promised levelling up of those parts of the country left behind.

In its report, Reviving Regions, the CBI says: “For the South West, improvements to infrastructure – ranging from enhanced digital connectivity to rail and road projects such as long-awaited upgrades to the A303, M5 and M4 – have the potential to be transformational.”

Last week the Department for Transport gave the go-ahead for a crucial part of the A303 upgrades when it backed major improvements to ease the bottleneck around Stonehenge.

South West business leader Tim Jones said that project alone could give the South West region a lift worth around £4bn once it comes on stream.

The CBI says targeted action to boost skills and develop physical and digital infrastructure is vital if the South West is to attract the inward investment needed to build back better from the economic ravages of coronavirus. 

The business organisation’s paper, sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, highlights long-standing regional inequalities across England which inhibit growth, opportunity and productivity.

It says the disparities in economic performance are large, both across England and within regions, and warns they are at risk of widening further if Government levelling-up ambitions falter in the wake of Covid-19.

The paper calls for a long-term strategic vision to guide the country through a vital post-Covid recovery and towards long-term prosperity.

For the South West, improvements to infrastructure – ranging from enhanced digital connectivity to rail and road projects such as long-awaited upgrades to the A303, M5 and M4 – have the potential to be transformational, the CBI predicts.

Increased spending on training and retraining is another regional priority. The pandemic has undermined the South West’s traditionally-strong levels of employment, and large numbers of workers, especially in hospitality and related tourism sectors, remain furloughed.

The CBI report says equipping them with new skills can protect individual livelihoods and support communities. It adds that “action on skills is essential in a region containing some of England’s areas of lowest productivity.” And it says underpinning all of this is a need to empower the South West’s local and regional leaders.  They must be able to “create a culture where businesses can operate, invest and grow with confidence.”

The report’s recommendations include: 

  • Building vibrant local labour markets
  • Transforming local infrastructure to facilitate new ways of working
  • Inspiring world-class, innovative businesses to invest in the regions
  • Intervening to close the gap in regional research and development funding

Susan Davy, the chief executive of one of the South West’s biggest business, South West Water owner Pennon, is also the CBI South West chair. She welcomed the report.

“The South West is a region with many examples of excellence, ranging from thriving cities like Bristol and Exeter to outstanding strength in sectors like advanced engineering, digital innovation and green industries,” she said.

“Yet these successes are not spread evenly, even within the region. Skills gaps and pockets of low productivity restrict opportunity and prosperity in parts of the South West, and challenges around connectivity – both physical and digital – have seen slow progress.

“Action on these issues is vital if the region is to enjoy a fair and sustainable recovery. We must attract the investment needed to enable South West businesses to enjoy success not just regionally or nationally, but globally too.”

The CBI believes the actions outlined can mitigate the regional impact of the pandemic as the nation rebuilds.

Devon gets £1.3 million for ‘active travel’

Devon County Council has been awarded almost £1.3 million for what’s called ‘active travel’ – which means cycling and walking whilst cutting car use.

Radio Exe News www.radioexe.co.uk 

Active travel filters in Heavitree, Exeter (courtesy: Exeter University)

Expect pop-up measures to become permanent

Devon County Council has been awarded almost £1.3 million for what’s called ‘active travel’ – which means cycling and walking whilst cutting car use.

The Department for Transport is giving the county £1,283,450 from its Emergency Active Travel Funding scheme. It’s the second wodge of government money to change travel habits since the start of the health crisis. The first lot went on“pop-up” temporary measures in Exeter, Barnstaple, Bideford and Newton Abbot to reduce the number of cars of the road.

Some of those temporary measures are likely to be made permanent. Last month, the Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) said it backed making the pop-up stay popped up, while a public consultation is to be carried out on some other arrangements in the city. Other measures will also be progressed in Newton Abbot and Barnstaple.

Three Devon schools (Redhills Primary School in Exeter, Bradley Barton Primary in Newton Abbot and the Whipton Barton Federation in Exeter) have also introduced “School Streets” measures to restrict traffic outside their schools during drop off and pick up times.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highway management, said: “Clearly we welcome this additional funding, although we will need to look closely at the small print. The Exeter HATOC has already set out that we’ll be carrying out consultation with local communities, which is something the government wants to see in awarding this second round of funding.

“We’re keen to encourage active travel in order to help tackle congestion, cut carbon emissions, and improve health. We will be working with local communities across Devon to ensure this funding is used to make it easier for people to walk and cycle.”

A study commissioned by the government has revealed that 65 per cent of people across England support reallocating road space to cycling and walking in their local area. Nearly eight out of 10 people (78 per cent) also support measures to reduce traffic in their neighbourhood.

As part of the DfT’s plan to ensure councils develop schemes that work for their communities, it has set out that they must:

  • -publish plans to show how they will consult their communities, including residents, businesses and emergency services, among others; 
  • show evidence of appropriate consultation prior to schemes being implemented;
  • submit monitoring reports on the implementation of schemes 6-12 months after their opening, highlighting how schemes have been modified based on local feedback to ensure they work for communities.

The funding will have to be spent or committed by March 2021.

Will Dominic Cummings seek revenge?

How Cummings chooses to throw the grenade of hard truth into the blancmange of Johnson’s Downing Street remains to be seen.

This looks very promising, can’t wait! – Owl

www.independent.co.uk 

Reports suggest it is in his mind. Asked about future plans, the prime minister’s former chief adviser makes a mime of pulling the safety pin out of a grenade and lobbing it with intent at some unspecified but easily identified object. He seems to be the sort of personality who likes to have the last word, and does not let go easily.  

When, for example, in 2014 he was special adviser to Michael Gove at education, the prime minister David Cameron fired Cummings, so troublesome was he. Yet he still turned up at the department and made no secret of his contempt for Cameron and most of his party (Cummings has never been a Tory member). Cummings detailed and lengthy blogs, and the equally meticulous briefings he sometimes offers journalists also point to his taste for explication and analysis, often through the prism of military or managerial strategy. 

Cummings has the great distinction of being sacked by three Tory leaders (he was also briefly and unhappily Iain Duncan Smith’s chief of staff) and banned by a fourth, Theresa May, who banished him and Gove from her sight for a while. Cummings has also made enemies of the likes of Sajid Javid (who tried to resist a takeover of the Treasury), Bernard Jenkin and Nigel Farage and has been held in contempt of parliament for effectively refusing to turn up to a select committee hearing to give evidence on the Vote Leave campaign.  

There is now plainly no love lost either with Carrie Symonds, the prime minister’s fiancee and known as “Princess Nut Nuts” to Cummings and his associates. Nor with Allegra Stratton, newly appointed spokesperson for No 10. It’s in fact tricky to find anyone to put on the list of Cummings’s allies.  

Despite some vague talk from Johnson about a return for Cummings and the ex-press secretary Lee Cain in time for the 2024 election, Cummings has little to lose from telling his side of the story. In truth it would be much more than gossip and score settling – though that might add to the gaiety of the nation in rough times. Indeed Cummings has something of a duty to report on the dysfunctionality of the Johnson administration and No 10 as it has faced and mismanaged the two overwhelming challenges of the Covid crisis and Brexit. Since the referendum campaign of 2016, and especially since Johnson became premier, Cummings has had a unique vantage point from which to observe and analyse what went wrong and what, if anything, went right. Has the PM lost his powers of communication since he had Covid? Does Carrie distract him with text messages and trivial media stories? Could Britain have made Brexit work? Would herd immunity ever have been the answer to covid? Is the Treasury too powerful? Is most of the civil service useless? How does Johnson make policy? Why did Johnson expend so much political capital on retaining him after the Barnard Castle incident, but ditched him so easily now? Is Gove running the country? Or Rishi Sunak? Or anyone?  

You’d suspect that, despite some temporary confluence of personal career and political interests, these men are not natural soulmates, in style or outlook or values. Cummings is constant in his beliefs, industrious, decisive and analytical. He has remarked publicly that he has no time for the public school bluffers so often found around Westminster and Whitehall. Johnson, by contrast, has wobbled around like a three-wheel supermarket trolley on Europe, likes his leisure time, dithers, and runs on instinct. He is a public school bluffer; some would attribute the classical references and long words to an Eton education and a gift for saying whatever it takes to get himself out of a tight spot. Both, arguably, though, are better campaigners than administrators.  

How Cummings chooses to throw the grenade of hard truth into the blancmange of Johnson’s Downing Street remains to be seen. There may be a very “hard rain” of multiple bombardments – the blog, interviews, columns, briefings… He might even, belatedly, accept the invitation to visit the House of Commons to give evidence on the role of the prime minister’s office. Funnily enough, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee is taking evidence currently. It would make a fine sequel to the show he gave in the Downing Street garden last summer. If he doesn’t then what is left of his reputation will be shredded by the new gang. Always remember the night time is the right time to fight crime. 

Dominic Cummings writes slogans, networks, blogs! Give this man a job

The 48-year-old may well find, as many others have, that the jobs market is an unforgiving place for a middle-aged man with a mixed CV.

How will he pay the bills? – Owl

Matt Chorley www.thetimes.co.uk

Dominic Cummings is a man for hire. Cast out of Downing Street after just over a year as the prime minister’s top adviser, he joins the nation’s growing dole queue. The 48-year-old may well find, as many others have, that the jobs market is an unforgiving place for a middle-aged man with a mixed CV.

The best indicator of what “Dom” will do next is probably to examine what he did before. He has spent much of the past decade terrorising the occupant of No 10: first David Cameron over education reforms and later Brexit; then Theresa May during her three years in charge.

No doubt Cummings will consider critiquing Boris Johnson a full-time job, but how to pay the bills?

Blogger

This is a man who likes the sound of his own keyboard. He could go into newspaper columnising, following Nick Timothy, who moved seamlessly from overseeing May’s disastrous election campaign to telling grateful readers of The Daily Telegraph what the Tories need to do to win. But Cummings would probably struggle with the concept of a word count. When you are a free thinker, you need the space to expound your clever thoughts.

A book, perhaps? Kate Fall, who was deputy chief of staff to David Cameron, argues that it is “good therapy” and a way of drawing a line under a spell in power. “The solidarity of purpose of working in No 10 is difficult to replicate, so best not to try,” she adds.

Yet a book is a bit 18th-century for everyone’s favourite algorithm-muncher. You don’t need to be a superforecaster to know that a return to his blog is inevitable. It is already a vast archive of posts about critical thinking, prediction, physics, economics, war gaming and artificial intelligence. There are a lot of italics and CAPITALS so you know the bits to really focus on.

His last full post was in January, when he appealed for “weirdos and misfits” to work in No 10 — an initiative that led to the hiring and prompt firing of a guru called Andrew Sabisky, who turned out to be rather too keen on eugenics for the prime minister’s tastes.

Advertising copywriter

It’s a literary feast or famine with Cummings: a 20,000-word blog or a three-word slogan. The man who brought us Take Back Control, Get Brexit Done and Hands, Face, Space could be in demand in the advertising industry. There may not be huge demand, given that the advertising industry has been decimated by the pandemic and economic downturn, but Every Little Helps.

Policy wonk

The man who has been hugely critical of the Westminster bubble and its thinktankery inhabitants does know about something — data and artificial intelligence — and is genuinely passionate about the role of tech in changing the way the country is run, and how we live our lives.

Exasperated by the archaic structures of meetings in the fusty cabinet room and ministers making decisions based on printed reports in their red box, he tried to shake things up by creating a Nasa-style mission control in Whitehall, but it was little more than some widescreen TVs on the wall of a bare meeting room.

Having struggled to change things from the inside, he may have more success making the case from the outside. Anthony Seldon, the historian and political biographer, says Cummings should be put in charge of Britain’s national effort to embrace artificial intelligence. “He gets it, hardly anybody else does, he’ll shake everybody up — we need it, and he’ll make it happen. It’ll be our meal ticket post-Brexit.”

Craig Oliver, No 10’s director of communications under Cameron, agrees. “Dominic’s passion is preparing the UK for an AI/tech-driven future. He could do a lot worse than use his undoubted talent to set up a think tank focused on that.” Alternatively, Oliver suggests, not entirely seriously, “he could listen to his bad angel and create a future-gazing agency, calling it FarQ”.

Lobbyist

The natural path for someone ousted from government is to move out, then spend the time lobbying those still on the inside. Good lobbyists boast of having the numbers of all the key decision-makers, which Cummings does. Whether they will take his call is more doubtful.

His track record isn’t great, though. Even when in government he struggled to get his way. He opposed HS2 and was overruled. He backed Huawei and was overruled. He even tried to move Boris Johnson out of No 10 and got overruled.

It is also not totally clear that he would enjoy being a man for hire. Famously blunt about what does (and does not) interest him, he is unlikely to want to spend his days lobbying on behalf of Acme Inc, no matter how well it pays.

Academic

Maligned as a stupid person’s idea of a clever person, Cummings has played down his intellect, writing in The Spectator in 2017 with admirable honesty: “I am not clever, I have a hopeless memory, and have almost no proper ‘circle of competence’.”

He also once railed against “Oxbridge English graduates who chat about Lacan at dinner parties”, which was quite something for an Oxford history graduate. It might do him good to update his reading, though.

After a blogpost this year about the possible uses of artificial intelligence, Lord O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, said the future-thinker was actually stuck in the past. “When you look at the articles he goes to in science, I mean they’re like going back 30, 40 years as if behavioural [science] never existed.”

Media personality

Some of those who leave government “do”, others just “talk”. The best example of this is Steve Hilton, who was Cameron’s scruffily dressed blue-sky thinker who tried to smash up Whitehall, grew frustrated and then flounced out when it all got a bit tough. Sound familiar?

Hilton is now a host on Fox News in the US, where he has been an outspoken supporter of President Trump while railing against woke political correctness. Cummings could follow suit in the UK, but we’ve already got Piers Morgan.

Fashionista

For a man who appears to be permanently dressed for an autumnal morning spent rotavating the vegetable plot, it is perhaps fitting he has been put on gardening leave. In politics it is still women who have their appearance endlessly critiqued, but Cummings has waged a one-man fightback for fashion equality.

Normally, when people say cracks are appearing in Downing Street they mean political divisions, not the cleavage emerging over the slumping belt line of ill-fitting jeans. But Cummings often struck a bum note on his arrival at No 10.

The beanie, the gilet, the bovver boots, the straw hat, the Big Sur cap, the tote bag, all thrown over studiously unironed shirts or unsubtle slogan T-shirts, were carefully chosen to show just how little he cared.

It didn’t always work. Early in lockdown Johnson held a briefing to reassure the nation that the sharpest minds were at work, while at the back of the room Cummings was spotted with his jumper inside out.

Still, a fashion range aimed at the new dressed-down generation of lockdown home workers can’t be ruled out. Dom at Asda, anyone?

A proper job

He has prided himself on being in touch with the common working man, unlike all those effete elitists in Whitehall. This seems to be based on a spell as a doorman at Klute nightclub in Durham (owned by his uncle; meritocracy in action), which was once voted the second worst club in Europe by FHM magazine, until the one in first place burnt down, allowing it to take the top spot. His nightclub experience of telling people they were going to leave whether they liked it or not obviously made quite the impression on him politically.

Cummings has also boasted of his business experience, including starting businesses in Russia. This amounted to a spectacularly unsuccessful airline that once left without its only passenger.

If he is looking for a return to something customer-facing, an advertisement has gone online for an optical assistant apprenticeship at Specsavers in Barnard Castle. The successful applicant, the advert states, “must be happy to travel”.

Exeter sees highest rent increase in England

New research shows that Exeter has seen the highest increase in average rent across whole of England over the past five years.

Howard Lloyd www.devonlive.com

Average rent in the city has jumped an incredible 39 per cent in five years, according to findings from international rental marketplace Spotahome.

According to numbers from the Office for National Statistics, in 2015 the average monthly rent stood at £853. It has gone up now to an eye-watering £1,201 – a £337 difference.

Nowhere else in England has seen a rise of that magnitude.

Nadia Butt, UK and Ireland country manager of Spotahome, said: “While London remains the most expensive place to rent in the UK this causes many tenants to automatically assume that this cost has continued to increase over the last few years and this simply isn’t the case.

“When you consider the higher cost of renting within the capital is partially offset by the higher wages on offer, and that this wage growth has remained fairly consistent, it means that London tenants are actually much better off now than when compared to five years ago.”

Second on the list is Oxford, which has seen a 32 per cent rise. Rent there in 2015 averaged £1,204, but it now stands at £1,588 – an increase of £384.

Newcastle-under-Lyme is third, with rent increasing from £506 to £662 – a growth of £156 – while Bristol is joint-fourth with Newcastle upon Tyne, Leicester and Norwich.

The South West city has gone from averaging £915 to £1,175 – a £260 increase equating to 28 per cent.

Interestingly, three London boroughs are among the 10 areas to have seen the largest declines in the past five years – Hounslow, Richmond and Kingston.

The figures are also set against a backdrop of the South West seeing the biggest reduction in rental affordability year on year.

While the average net wage in the region has increased by +1.7 per cent to £1,890 in the last year, the average monthly rent has also jumped by +6.1 per cent to £892 today – the largest increase of all regions.

As a result, the cost of renting now requires 47.2 per cent of the average monthly earnings in the region, up +1.9 per cent from 45.2 per cent last year.

Founder and CEO of Howsy, Calum Brannan, added: “The cost of renting has continued to climb across much of the nation and as a result, many tenants are now paying more of their monthly earnings on rent despite a steady increase in income.

“The current impact of the pandemic is perhaps clearest within the capital where a severe fall in demand levels has seen rents tumble.

“However, while the topline figures show that London’s tenants are now paying less of their income on rent, this won’t be the reality for many who find themselves out of work or on furlough as a result of the current landscape.”

Go-between paid £21m in taxpayer funds for NHS PPE

A Spanish businessman who acted as a go-between to secure protective garments for NHS staff in the coronavirus pandemic was paid $28m (£21m) in UK taxpayer cash.

By Phil Kemp www.bbc.co.uk

The consultant had been in line for a further $20m of UK public funds, documents filed in a US court reveal.

The legal papers also reveal the American supplier of the PPE called the deals “lucrative”.

The Department of Health said proper checks are done for all contracts.

A legal dispute playing out in the courts in Miami has helped shine a light on the amount of money some companies have made supplying the NHS with equipment to protect staff from Covid infection.

Earlier this year, as the coronavirus pandemic was spreading rapidly around the world, Florida-based jewellery designer Michael Saiger set up a business to supply PPE to governments.

He used his experience of working with factories in China to land what are described as “a number of lucrative contracts” supplying protective gloves and gowns to the NHS.

Mr Saiger signed up a Spanish businessman, Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson, to help with “procurement, logistics, due diligence, product sourcing and quality control” of the PPE equipment. In effect, Mr Andersson was expected to find a manufacturer for deals that had already been done.

Further $20m pledged

Mr Andersson was paid more than $28m (£21m) for his work on two government contracts to supply the NHS. He was described in court documents as having done “very well under this arrangement”.

image captionEarlier in the year there was a shortage of protective equipment for NHS medics

In June, Mr Saiger signed three more agreements to supply the NHS with millions of gloves and surgical gowns.

When the UK government paid up, his go-between, Mr Andersson, would have been in line for a further $20m in consulting fees.

But the court documents allege that once the agreements had been signed, Mr Andersson stopped doing any work for Mr Saiger. It’s not clear whether Mr Andersson received any of the money for this second batch of deals.

This led to PPE deliveries being delayed to NHS frontline workers, Mr Saiger claims, and the company “scrambling” to fulfil the contracts by other means.

So far the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published contracts with Mr Saiger’s company, Saiger LLC, totalling more than £200m. These were awarded without being opened to competition.

‘Huge profits’

Alongside the legal dispute in Florida, the deals are set to be challenged in UK courts, by campaign group the Good Law Project. It accuses government ministers of not paying “sufficient regard” to tax-payers’ money over a contract with the firm.

“We do not understand why, as late as June, government was still making direct awards of contracts sufficiently lucrative as to enable these sorts of profits to be made,” Jolyon Maugham, the project’s director told the BBC.

“The real criticism that is to be made here is of the huge profits that government allows to be generated.”

This is not the first time concerns have been raised about PPE contracts the DHSC signed during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, the BBC revealed that 50 million face masks the government bought could not be used in the NHS because of safety concerns. And last week, it exposed concerns that the government had leaned on safety officials to certify PPE which had been wrongly classified.

A DHSC spokesperson said the department had been “working tirelessly” to deliver PPE, with more than 4.9 billion items delivered to frontline health workers so far and nearly 32 billion items ordered “to provide a continuous supply”.

They added: “Proper due diligence is carried out for all government contracts, and we take these checks extremely seriously.”

The BBC asked Gabriel Gonzalez Andersson for comment but he has not so far responded.

Saiger LLC said: “At the height of the pandemic, and at a time when the NHS was in need of high-quality PPE that met the required safety standards, we delivered for Britain, on time and at value.

“At no time have we ever used any ‘middlemen’. We have few full-time staff so for large projects we bring in short-term contractors for additional expertise and capacity, allowing us to deliver what is needed.

“We are exceptionally proud to have played our part in providing frontline workers in the UK, including nurses, doctors and hospital staff, with the millions of pieces of PPE they need to stay safe and to save lives.”