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Business briefing: Hiscox faces lawsuit over £40m claims

‘Hugely disappointing’: Hiscox customer Raymond Blanc

ANGRY Hiscox policyholders have been given the go-ahead to launch legal action against the insurance giant.

The Hiscox Action Group — set up by customers frustrated by the decision to exclude coronavirus disruption from its business interruption policies — said it intends to launch a claim.

Mishcon de Reya, the city law firm leading the case, said more than 400 policyholders have signed up to argue almost £40million in claims.

The law firm is expected to file an ‘expedited arbitration claim’ within days and told group members the action has ‘good chance’ of success.

Shut: Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons PICTURE: REX

Michelin-starred Raymond Blanc was forced to shut his 37 restaurants and pubs. The chef, 70, said he took out business interruption insurance to cover ‘an occurrence of any human infection or contagious disease’.

Mr Blanc, who employs about 1,400 staff, including at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, told Metro last month that Hiscox’s position was ‘hugely disappointing’.

Simon Ager, of the Hiscox Action Group, said: ‘For many of our members, this insurance is the difference between survival and bankruptcy, and we are determined that they should get the money they are entitled to.’

A Hiscox spokeswoman said: ‘As the Financial Conduct Authority has said, most UK small business policies do not cover pandemics.

‘We welcome all steps to expedite resolution of any dispute and we look forward to working with policyholders to achieve this.’

6,000 jobs at risk at Bella Italia and Café Rouge

Under threat: A branch of Cafe Rouge PICTURE: BARRY PHILLIPS

BELLA Italia and Café Rouge owner Casual Dining Group has confirmed it intends to appoint administrators — putting 6,000 jobs at risk.

The restaurant group, which also operates the Las Iguanas chain, said the move will give the firm ten days to consider ‘all options’ for restructuring.

Casual Dining Group said: ‘This is an unprecedented situation for our industry and, like many other companies across the UK, the directors of Casual Dining Group are working closely with our advisers as we consider our next steps.’

It added the move would ‘protect the company from any threatened potential legal action from landlords while we review the detail of the government advice and formulate a plan’. The group, which has furloughed the majority of its staff, traded from around 250 sites across the UK before the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the owner of rival chain Giraffe, Boparan Restaurants, is reportedly closing on a deal to buy Carluccio’s in a move which would save around 900 jobs.

Sky News said Boparan is looking to conclude a deal that would include taking about 30 of Carluccio’s 70 restaurants.

Ryanair boss slams plans to quarantine UK arrivals

‘No scientific basis’: Michael O’Leary PICTURE: REUTERS

RYANAIR boss Michael O’Leary has called plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on international visitors to the UK ‘idiotic and unimplementable’.

Mr O’Leary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme they had ‘no medical or scientific basis’, and face masks would ‘eliminate’ the risk of spreading Covid-19.

‘It is idiotic and it’s unimplementable. You don’t have enough police in the UK to implement a two-week lockdown,’ he said. Ryanair has said it plans to operate nearly 1,000 flights per day from July 1 subject to countries lifting flight restrictions and ‘effective public health measures’ at airports.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps yesterday told MPs quarantine restrictions for international travellers would apply from early next month.

He said a ‘blanket situation’ would be in place for all countries, except Ireland, at first but they could be relaxed for countries with low Covid-19 rates.

Mr Shapps confirmed 43,500 airline staff were furloughed and the sector faced ‘quite a long tail’ out of the crisis.

Prince urges public to ‘Pick For Britain’

‘Vital’: Prince Charles PICTURE: GETTY

THE Prince of Wales has launched a ‘Pick For Britain’ campaign — calling on workers to help farmers harvest fruit and veg.

Prince Charles backed the government drive to ensure crops are not left to rot amid a shortage of pickers.

He likened the project to the Women’s Land Army, which helped boost food production in World War II.

The prince, who runs an organic farm at Highgrove in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, said in a video: ‘The phrase I have often heard is “pickers who are stickers”. I do not doubt that the work will be unglamorous and, at times, challenging.

‘But it is of the utmost importance and you will be making a vital contribution to the national effort.’

Japan’s battered GDP is hit further by pandemic

JAPAN plunged into a technical recession in the first quarter as the pandemic hit production, exports and spending.

The cabinet office reported a 3.4 per cent drop in GDP between January and March as exports dropped 21.8 per cent. This followed a 1.9 per cent fall between October and December.

Japan’s government has announced an £833billion package and plans more. This includes aid to small businesses and cash handouts.

The country has seen more than 16,000 infections and 700 deaths — relatively low given it has the world’s oldest population.

Aldi deliveries ‘at your doorstep in 30 minutes’

ALDI has partnered with Deliveroo to deliver groceries to homes for the first time.

The discount supermarket chain launched the service yesterday at a branch in Nottingham, and will extend the trial to seven other East Midlands stores in the next month as demand for online groceries surges.

Shoppers can choose from more than 150 essentials such as bread and milk using the Deliveroo app, to arrive in ‘as little as 30 minutes’ via courier.

‘This is a new and exciting venture for Aldi,’ said Giles Hurley, the company’s UK and Ireland chief executive.