The Ministry of Defence and Metropolitan Police are outsourcing major uniform production contracts to overseas suppliers, sparking claims they are letting down the UK manufacturing industry and exposing members of the Armed Forces to unnecessary danger.
Yorkshire manufacturer Turner Virr has just won a multimillion-pound contract with the Metropolitan Police to produce patrol trousers for its 33,000 police officers, and is tipped as the frontrunner to land a second contract for as many “hybrid shirts” in the next few days.
However, it is understood the garments will be produced in the Far East in order to reduce costs, instead of being used to bolster the depleted manufacturing industry in the UK.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has also recently awarded a contract for millions of pounds worth of camouflage gear to a Chinese company - a decision UK manufacturers claim could backfire.
Lee Dawson, managing director of military uniform specialist Samuel Brothers (St Paul’s), said: “If we are sourcing from China and something goes wrong with Anglo-Chinese relationships, we have a problem. China could withdraw supply.”
Another source said enemy countries could throw anthrax into boxes of clothing intended for UK forces.
There are also issues of quality and reliability. Sources cited as an example a contract to produce half a million army shirts a year that was awarded to a Spanish footwear specialist and then outsourced to a Chinese supplier. The supplier did not produce the goods, and troops in Afghanistan were left short and had to share basic clothing as a result.
An MoD spokesman said: “Our focus is on getting the Armed Forces the equipment they require, when they need it, at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer. In the last two years, British companies have won 87% of clothing contracts.”