Buying British

The government has set an ambitious target to double UK exports by 2020. That would certainly boost growth and transform the balance of payments. Equally helpful would be reducing imports by making and providing more of the things we want for ourselves instead of importing them.

The Environment Secretary has recently said she would like to see the UK dairy industry expand its cheese, yoghurt and other added value manufacture of milk products. As someone who usually buys English cheese I know there is plenty of choice and good English product already available. Today I carefully selected UK yoghurt which was also available. It should be possible for the home grown industry to woo more domestic customers. I look forward to progress with clearer labelling without EU interference.

Homes are UK produced, but there is a wide array of components, utilities, fixtures and fittings which are imported. Maybe businesses could respond to the challenge of coming up with the perfect English or Scottish home, with a higher proportion of local materials and products included.

UK buyers seem to like buying cars imported from afar, whilst the UK industry is especially good at selling cars abroad. I have always bought an English manufactured car. I only once used a German car many years ago provided by the company I then worked for and was disappointed with the build quality and reliability. I have been satisfied with most of the English cars I have owned and impressed by many of the huge improvements they – and other overseas car industries – have achieved in recent decades in specification and performance. The UK industry could persuade more UK buyers.

Great advanced country manufacturing businesses are driven to success by great design and good technology. The UK has allowed some of its design edge to slip in textiles, ceramics, machine tools and other areas of engineering. As change is ceaseless and the digital age is anarchic in its impact on many old business models, there is still opportunity for the makers to march in bigger numbers.

One of the disappointing features of the public sector is how much it imports and how little it sells abroad. As a recent blogger has reminded us the NHS fails to bill lots of foreign visitors who receive treatment here. The nationalised railway along with the subsidised and directed private companies that form part of it import large quantities of equipment from overseas instead of basing the technology, design and production here.

Various parts of the UK public sector buy cars made overseas when there are perfectly good UK produced ones available. If I challenge this I am usually told it’s the result of EU procurement rules. Funny I don’t see German or French officials travelling around in UK made cars.

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122 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Well if you want British industry to do better and become more competitive you need to halve the bloated state sector, the ball and chain that renders it largely unable to compete in the world. We need cheap energy, no green crap, far simpler employment laws, simpler & quicker planning, functional banks, far lower and far simpler taxes and far fewer (but better directed regulations) and a more efficient legal system.

    Better (and better directed) schools and universities would help too. The incompetent, rationed and very slow NHS hardly aids efficiency either as many wait months for treatments often needed to get them back to work.

    I see Osborne gives film makers 25% of the cost of making their films in the UK – why one wonders?

    Perhaps he should give UK industry 25% of their costs back, after all at lease 25% comes from over bloated government anyway. What is so special about films over manufacturing or other industries? I assume he just thinks he gets better photo ops with all the actors and actresses, or is it actors and actors now?

    • JoeSoap
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Well Osborne likes to copy New Labour, and people like Blair were always in love with these film folk. I can’t see that carrying on under Corbyn (a good thing). Funny that Osborne didn’t take any leaves from the Labour idea about getting rid of business rates – but then these celeb types wouldn’t pay that either, would they?

      On the point of trying to make more things here, it all comes back to people (we need more motivated ones, who don’t see benefits as another option), property (not loaded with UK sky-high prices then business rates on top) and good products which I am sure we could make with the other two sorted out.

      Reply The government did reduce business rates for smaller businesses and would like to do more but need the revenue. How would you pay for a bigger cut?

      • Know-Dice
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        “How would you pay for a bigger cut?”

        Just a quick look around your own back yard – Wokingham, Bracknell etc.

        £1,000,000 on a cycleway that has maybe 10 users on a good day.
        £150,000 on rebuilding a roundabout (Meldreth) when all that is needed is a bit of “anti-skid”
        £xxx? on adding traffic lights to slow traffic on any roundabout that currently works well…

        I could go on.

        There are many many areas where local councils could save, without effecting many people, but they choose to save in the most visible ways…wonder why that would be?

        • alan jutson
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          Know-Dice

          Clearly you know the area well but:

          You forgot the Multi coloured tarmac spread all over the place, and the huge increase in road signage.

          By the way the cycle track I am informed has cost £3,000,000 and our lycra clad friends still use the road.

          • David Price
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 7:28 am | Permalink

            Is that £3m for the Lower Earley cycle/dog walking way or does it include the A329 as well?

          • alan jutson
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

            David

            As I understand it that figure of £3,000,000 includes the Lower Early cycle track, jogging circuit,and dog walking area as well.

            Indeed I am informed that so many dog walkers and joggers use this fenced in cycle path, that cyclists prefer to use the road which has now been narrowed to accommodate the new cycle path construction.

          • DavidPrice
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            Alan,
            I drive past that cycle path several times a week and can corroborate it’s usage, in all the time it has been open I have seen at most 8-10 cyclists using it and never during the rush hour, I suspect the exhaust fumes from all the cars forced to queue may disuade the precious cyclists. Most of the time it’s mum’s with prams and dog walkers.

            They haven’t just narrowed the road they’ve put islands with lights and stuff to prevent overtaking. On the other side of the road are fields bordering the M4, there is nowhere to go and no path on that side so the purpose of the islands is very clear.

            Not only have they made the situation worse for the majority of residents, there was no consultation I am aware of and they have wasted our money to do it. The last I heard it was £1m which was ridiculous for what has been produced but these people must be on a different planet to spend £3m on such a useless piece of tarmac.

        • JoeSoap
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          Point well answered thank you.
          Frankly our business rates most visibly go to pay local government pensions. I will probably be working in business paying business rates, when these people will be long retired. I’m not complaining about that as such, but every £ paid in business rates is a £ that could go to expanding the business, and the increase in rates inherent in taking on more space is also a major deterrent from us expanding.

        • Hefner
          Posted August 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          Meldreth roundabout is going to be “improved” thanks to 40 days worth of work starting 3 September. How many workers will actually be involved in this work? How much will it cost the town council or Wokingham District? It seems rather curious that the money (£1 or 3M) spent on the cycle path did not include the “improvements” scheduled for Meldreth roundabout.

          Right now, on Beech Lane, there has been work going on on behalf of Southern & Scottish Energy, via a contract to the Options company. About 100 yards of road have been made single lane, with traffic lights on three streets (there is a junction in the middle). I go everyday on this road and have never seen more than two workers at a time. The work is likely to be carried out over 30 days.

          For more than ten years, I was riding a bike morning and evening along Lower Earley Way on the pavement. Thanks to the presence of the M4 a few hundred yards away parallel to LEW, the ground was clearly moving and cracks were regularly appearing, made bigger after each sizeable rain. Every year in Spring, a company was coming for one or two days to “patch” the biggest holes, to me taking a few minutes per metre of repair. Not surprisingly, within a month or so, the cracks were reappearing. How much was Wokingham District invoiced for such poor repairs?

          Are private companies the best to carry out this type of work? Do the local politicians actually monitor the cost and the actual work being done? What part of the Council tax is spent/wasted in this type of work?

          Reply Some good questions here.
          I have asked Wokingham to find places other than under a road carriageway to place pipes and cables, with easier ways of access. I have also asked why Meldreth needs roundabout changes. Councillors have supervised the policy and say it is for safety reasons – please take up with them if you disagree.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        yet more state manipulation of the markets, and favouring one business sector over another. stinks frankly and will only do us damage overall.

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 22, 2015 at 5:02 am | Permalink

        They even charge rates on un-let building and empty shops. In essence just legalised theft.

    • Jerry
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      @LL; “Well if you want British industry to do better and become more competitive you need to halve the bloated state sector [../rants regarding things LL doesn’t understand and are thus waste or bloat/..]”

      If you throw half the adult population out of work, remember that a lot of private companies depend upon their public sector contracts (no contract, no work), there will be very few people buying anything, made in the UK or not, stop wanting to go back the the 1980s. 🙁

      • Edward2
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        This is the same failed argument put forward at the start of the Coalition Govt when people like you Jerry, assured us that cutting back the excessive numbers employed by the State would lead to disaster.
        One popular lefty economist predicted 5 million unemployed.
        In fact the result was the private sector employed more people than were let go by the State and unemployment went down considerably.

        • Jerry
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2; You obviously do not remember the 1980s them, or are just in denial…

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

            What relevance is that comment Jerry?
            What I said was correct.
            You and many lefty economists were predicting no growth and higher unemployment as the Coalition slowly reduced Browns expensive client state which had grown by hundreds of thousands.
            And the opposite happened.
            Denial moi?

          • libertarian
            Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

            Jerry

            ” You obviously do not remember the 1980s them, or are just in denial…”

            Well I remember Jerry and this is what happened. Following the 1970’s collapse and closures of the outdated nationalised car, shipbuilding and mining industries we had 3 million unemployed. In the 1980’s the private sector market invested heavily in creating new service based businesses in Information Technology, Financial Services and others. The result more than 4 million people work in professional services, 1.5 million people work in IT ( growing at the faster rate 2% a year).

            So Jerry to answer your question 3million jobs were shed in order to create space to create 6 million in new industries. That pattern has continued through the 90’s and 2000’s. We now have 31million people in employment Jerry and less and less are working on the taxpayers money

      • Bob
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        @Jerry

        “private companies depend upon their public sector contracts “

        Where does the public sector get the money to pay the private sector?

        • Jerry
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

          @Bob; Seeing as we will never be rid of such public sectors and contract what you are arguing for is the full public ownership of the means of production!

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink

            What Bob was asking you is where does the public sector get the money from to pay for the private sector.
            You did not even get close to answering.

          • Bob
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            “Seeing as we will never be rid of such public sectors and contract what you are arguing for is the full public ownership of the means of production!”

            Are you obfuscating because you don’t know the answer Jerry?

            Well perhaps I can help. The public sector pays the private sector with the money it took from the private sector.

            A bit like someone going into a shop and buying an item and then removing money from the shop’s own cash till to pay the shop.

            But it’s even worse than that because not only does the private sector have to fund the contracts, they also fund the generous pay & pension packages plus acres of office accommodation and other expenses of the public sector.

            And worse still, the track record or the public sector for obtaining value for money is legendary, so the taxpayer picks up the bill for the the public sector’s cornucopia of cock-ups.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Half! Only 20% work for the state sector. I only want the perhaps half of them, that do nothing of any use or worse still inconvenience the productive to go and get a productive job instead.

      • libertarian
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Jerry

        47% and growing of the workforce work for SME’s, exactly how many of them do you think are dependent on public sector contracts? You make it up as you go along,

        • Jerry
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          @libertarian; “You make it up as you go along,”

          I’m nothing like you libertarian, I also understand what has been said before replying, unlike you.

          What do you not understand about the fact that many of those SME rely on public sector contracts, even if not directly. Think in terms of what might be called “trickle-up”, if the employees of those companies that loose their public sector contracts, and thus either take cut in take home wages or worse loose their jobs entirely, how will they spend their disposable income on the products and services of those SMEs you mention, then those SMEs have to cut back on production and thus another section of the economy is affected. The same problem occurs when things like mortgage interest rates rise to unmanageable levels, peoples otherwise disposable incomes get diverted to financing that debt, not financing the products and services of your beloved SMEs. Before long we have a recession or worse forming…

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 8:52 am | Permalink

            You are assuming all government spending is useful capital expenditure which goes to UK companies who fill their order books with it.
            Sadly only a very small amount is.
            Most is overhead costs wages and pensions.
            This is why your previous similar predictions of disaster and recession for the Coalition did not come true

          • libertarian
            Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:15 am | Permalink

            Jerry

            YOU ARE WRONG

            There big shouty capitals. I’ll try again 90% of SME’s DO NOT undertake public sector contracts of any kind. The UK business support organisations in the UK have been lobbying government vigorously on this topic. If you pay me £1000 I”ll send you my report on the findings of a research programme recently undertaken in this area.

            Your laughable trickle up analogy is also wrong. The vast majority of SME’s are B2C, those that are B2B are a vanishingly small number who have a customer totally reliant on public sector.

            You talk total and utter nonsense ( typical socialist, you haven’t the first idea about business )

      • David Price
        Posted August 22, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        A lot? What and where is the data to back up your conjecture? How many large and SME concerns are dependent on what level of public sector custom for what proportion of their income?

        I run a very small business, over the last 3 years I have done business with the public sector, private sector and consumers where the public sector has accounted for about 20%. I could lose the public sector income and still survive and prosper by focusing more on the other markets, I would suspect the same is true for a large proportion of private sector enterprise.

        Whilst I disagree with taking figure out of the air laying off half the public sector would not throw half the adult population out of work.

    • outsider
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Dear Lifelogic: You ask “what’s so special about films”. Cannot be sure but perhaps it is because the French-inspired exception for these “cultural and artistic” services allows state subsidies in that sector.

    • agricola
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      If there is a law of diminishing returns when the tax threshold is too high then conversely were the tax regime business oriented it could well vastly increase the number of companies producing in, and exporting from, the UK.

      The other critical component of manufacture and export success is to be out of the negative influence of the EU. They are a yoke around our necks and the necks of most of Europe. We also need to rid ourselves of all those group think politicians who would keep us yoked.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic – The most telling thing about tax breaks for the film industry ? the EU approved it ! What if it hadn’t ?

      Why is there such concern with the Labour/Corbyn issue ? The people have already rejected Labour. They voted in a Conservative government for five years. Why are we banging on about Labour now ?

      To make it seem like UK politics is still relevent. To distract us from the greatest threat to European civilisation in modern times. The dam has burst between us and the third world on the Conservatives’ watch – no thanks to their intervention in Libya.

      Kitten Heels does a deal with the French – so we’re bound to come off worse out of the bargain. Indeed, northern France shouldn’t even be the stopping point and wouldn’t be – not if our political class wasn’t so self serving and useless.

      Why buy British when our government is happy to give our country away !

  2. Bernard from Bucks
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately your ‘English’ cheese and ‘British’ yoghurt could easily be made using milk from another country.
    From Food Standards Agency.
    • “goods shall be deemed to have been manufactured or produced in the
    country in which they last underwent a treatment or process resulting in a
    substantial change”.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Indeed a substantial change – perhaps putting the shoe laces into a pair of shoes for example?

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Bernard – Our supermarkets like to price milk below local cost. Yet they charge much more for bottled water. Clearly something is awry with the marketing men, and if only for our national food security then this is one area where the government should be assisting – in the form of subsidy to farmers, perhaps.

  3. Jerry
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Careful John, the UK actually making things, people “Buying British” (which presumably means from UK owned and run companies), you are in danger of being accused by some on your site of wanting a to return to the 1960s and ’70s…

    • Edward2
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      A silly comment from you Jerry.
      We now live in a very small trading world and we expect other countries to be willing to buy our products and allow us to purchase companies in their countries and to set up businesses in their countries.
      All without opposition or restriction.
      This requires an open and free trade attitude by all involved.
      This leads to improved prospects for jobs and prosperity.
      And a greater choice for the consumer.
      I agree entirely with Mr Redwood’s article.
      But not your vision of a return to ’60s and ’70s style racist ownership restrictions, import tariffs, isolationism and State nationalisation.

    • David Cockburn
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      It may be that some see a call to ‘buy British’ as a return to the 60’s but that’s not how the Germans and French see things. They and their governments certainly give preference to their own makers, EU rules or no EU rules.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Indeed the real way forward is to make British goods to be the best quality & best value for such quality. That way not only the British will buy them but all the world will do so.

      Alas the government would rather kill industry with over taxation, over regulation, daft employment laws, expensive energy and much other damaging nonsense.

      • Jerry
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        @Lifelogic; “the real way forward is to make British goods to be the best quality & best value for such quality.”

        Well yes quality is key, but first we need to start making such things once again, not just assemble products for companies based in other countries.

        “Alas the government would rather kill industry with over taxation, over regulation, daft employment laws, expensive energy and much other damaging nonsense.”

        Except that other (EU) countries manage with as much if not more “over regulation”, not only that but often much more union activity too.

        • libertarian
          Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:26 am | Permalink

          Jerry

          Lesson 42 in Jerry knows nothing about business

          In fact Jerry the vast majority of UK manufacturing has been based on the design, development and IP being done in the UK then outsourcing assembly overseas. Small manufacturers have been reshoring for the last couple of years which means bringing back assembly to here.

          You also don’t seem to understand that design, IP etc is the most lucrative and highly skilled and paid part of manufacturing and assembly used to employ the most ( low skilled people) . Overseas assembly still employs very low paid workers. Re-shored assembly is mostly 3D, robotics and automated processes. Try leaving the 1970’s and engaging with the 21st century

          I thought you claimed to be an engineer?

          So Jerry supply some links, references or evidence that the 28 members of the EU are all managing manufacturing within EU regulations and with more union activity.

          Yes we know about Germany, what about the other 27?

          Oh by the way German unions have LOST 5 million members in the last 10 years Jerry.

    • libertarian
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Jerry

      Please explain what a UK owned company means

  4. Old Albion
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    You bought ‘English cheese’ ? So would I, if I could find any marked English. Look around most supermarkets. You’ll find Scottish goods, you’ll find Welsh goods and you’ll find British goods. The major retailers do not identify anything as English. They seem to suffer from the self-loathing that infects so many English institutions and of course there is the problem that Scots refuse to buy anything marked ‘English’

    As for manufacturing here in England. So many companies cannot compete with cheap (usually far east) imports. Due to the ridiculous cost of energy imposed by the EU through it’s ‘climate change’ alarmism.

    And yes, EU procurement rules do result in other countries getting contracts to produce goods and services for us. The building of new railway rolling stock is a good and fairly recent example.

    • Peter Stroud
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      I agree entirely about labelling English goods. All that is needed is a label showing the cross of St George and the word ENGLISH.

      And I also agree with your point regarding climate alarmism. Unfortunately it seems that the entire front bench are ‘warmists’, Cameron being one of the worst.

    • Bernard from Bucks
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Waitrose is an example of an exception to your ‘English’ dilemma.
      On their cheese counters, they not only call them ‘English’ but also show a little flag of St George on each label. I was so surprised that I took several photos of their counter. This was in Thame.
      Tesco is the worst for labeling everything ‘British’. (ie British Butter.)
      Judging by their recent results, all I can say is “It serves them right”.

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      I buy Belton Farm Wensleydale Cheese from Sainsbury every week together with English Cheddar from Taw Valley Creamery. I am not sure whether they are made in England but as long as they are made in the UK it’s OK with me. I buy British whenever I can. We owe it to our Farmers and Manufacturers.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Far east imports are not burdened with the cost of health and safety, emission targets and living wages.

      We should not be trading with countries which do not have the same ethical standards as our own.

  5. Antisthenes
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    It is all well and good to have a wish list. However turning it into reality is dependent on many factors not least of which is having the environment in place that motivates the construction of the means of fulfilling it. Patriotism and the fact that it is the right thing to do does not hack it. France is one country perhaps that that is an exception to that for example they do buy French cars in preference to foreign made (Although I noted the British Rover was quite popular there for some strange reason) even though they are not up to much (During my time in Canada I noted that there were no French cars at all on their roads and few British ones come to that).

    It is price and quality at the end of the day that decides where something is bought from. So unless the UK can compete with low unit cost, well trained and competent entrepreneurs and workforce and low taxation countries then your wish list will remain that. Currently energy costs, labour costs, regulations and regressive vested interests are not conducive to creating the environment needed to increase the UK manufacturing and industrial sector.

    I give the Conservative government credit for trying to improve the environment for business but it needs to go a lot further. It needs to be even more radical in reforming education and training, reducing energy costs, reducing regulation(getting rid of the dead hand of the EU would be a substantial help), reducing the role of government and making the labour market more productive.

    • petermartin2001
      Posted August 22, 2015 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      “So unless the UK can compete with low unit cost, well trained and competent entrepreneurs and workforce and low taxation countries…..”

      You mean like Germany? I rather doubt you’ve any experience of the German taxation system!

      If you had, you wouldn’t be equating an net exporting country with a low taxation country.

      It is just the opposite. Those net exports have an inflationary effect on the economy. Therefore the inflow of money has to be removed, by taxation, to prevent inflation in the German economy.

      Another way of looking at it, is to say Germans (and Dutch, PVL! ) have to be taxed highly to prevent their being able to afford goods which are destined for overseas markets.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I agree that buying British is a good idea if product fits your needs, and is of equal quality and price, as that available from abroad.

    Loyalty to your Country is an excellent idea, problem is so many of our population have now come from elsewhere, that, that loyalty may not necessarily be to British made goods.

    Once again we seem to want to play by the gold plated rules of the EU in our Public sector tendering process, while others abroad simply put their own Country first.

    • outsider
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Dear Alan, Too many of our civil servants and public officials are like bad lawyers, who just tell you what you cannot do. A good legal adviser, or a good civil servant, will tell you how to accomplish what you want to achieve properly within the law.

      • alan jutson
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        Outsider

        “Too many of our Civil Servants and Public Officials are like bad Lawyers …….”

        Absolutely agree, they get away with it because they are not given the right guidelines, this is down to poor mindset management, poor control, and poor requests for information from government, who should always question why not.

        So much easier to simply say you cannot do something, than trying to be positive with reasons for rather than against.

        Simply laziness by all concerned..

  7. alexmews
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Thx John

    It is indeed a common thing in Canada, Australia and US to see products of all sorts prominently labelled ‘made in Canada’ or ‘Proudly Australian…’ etc. It seems odd this is less the case here. Why is that? I am not from UK so may have missed something.

    • DaveM
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      See Old Albion’s comment above!!

  8. Alan Wheatley
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    For a few years I lived in the countryside, surrounded by hill farms. It struck me then, and still does, that for small farms in rural communities it would help the farmers for local people to buy their produce directly from the farm. At least one benefit would be to minimise “food miles”.

    But this never seemed to happen. Part of the problem for milk is the processing which, for reasons I do not understand, seems can only be done in a distant diary. Perhaps there is a business opportunity here for someone to come up with a micro-dairy.

    • scottspeig
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Indeed – We were interested in supporting the local dairy farmers by going back to the milkman rather than supermarket and were prepared to pay more. Not double though 🙁

  9. David Cockburn
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    For some reason our public sector is notably insular. The French government owned SNCF has no compunction about investing in British trains while British Rail and it’s successors never ventured abroad. The German and Dutch postal services bought DHL and TNT while Royal Mail sat at home.
    If we must have a public sector business perhaps it should be expected to run like a real business.

    • outsider
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      That is such an important point David. One reason is that the UK Treasury is more short-termist even than the City. If UK state-controlled business did make investments abroad, they would be sold off to raise cash as soon as public spending cuts were needed, which is about every five years. Similarly with public stakes in privatised companies.
      The culture of Whitehall and Westminster makes a rigid distinction between the private and public sectors, instead of between productive investment and current public services. Compare British Leyland and Renault, both state-owned and essentially bankrupt in the mid 1980s.

    • Jerry
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      @David Cockburn; I suspect that the UK state owned companies you name [1] would have been more than happy to have been allowed to act like their French and German contemporaries/competitors, unfortunately their political string pullers did not allow them.

      [1] although BREL did export their products, either as complete items, as components or as manufacturing rights, an an example British Rail’s HST design concept was sold to Australia as their XPT

  10. Ian wragg
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    The police are about to buy 3000 foreign cars because of EU procurement rules
    Funny that the same rules don’t appear to apply in France Germany or Italy. We follow the rules but the rest ignore them.
    French and German companies cry foul if other countries by home made goods but expect their own governments to support them.
    I buy UK built cars currently driving a new Civic and it would take some beating.

    • CdBrux
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Some of the outcome of the tender process can be down to the way the requirements are written. For example I understand when Siemens won the contract to supply trains for Thameslink ahead of Bombardier (who would build the trains in their Derby factory) one of the factors that helped Siemens was the financing package (the supplier had to bear the cost of some borrowing) in which the far larger corporation of Siemens had the advantage of access to cheaper financing.

      When the next major tender was made (Crossrail) the UK Government, under a UK Guarantee scheme, contributed capital upfront and this would have helped level the playing field between the two companies in this respect. Clearly this was not the only reason Bombardier will have then got the Crossrail contract, but it will surely have been a contributing factor.

      The lesson from this is that maybe German & French public procurement are better at drawing up the specifications in a way that leans towards a certain outcome without violating EU rules, i.e. you make sure your police car specifications are for something only a few providers can do. Of course this may then mean your police car is optimised to the producer and not the police force and innovation is less likely!

    • Jerry
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Ian wragg; “I buy UK built cars currently driving a new Civic and it would take some beating.

      In another words, you buy a Japanese car…

      • Edward2
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Depends how you define it Jerry
        Made by well paid and well trained British people in Swindon by a world class company paying VAT, Corporation Tax, National Insurance Tax, PAYE tax, paying local Council taxes and giving millions of pounds worth of business to local companies supplying all the needs of Honda in Swindon
        One company I know well does over one million pounds of business with Honda every year and this supports over 100 well paid jobs in just this company.
        But as you say its a “foriegn” car.
        A concept lost on anyone under 50 years of age.
        You sound like an old aged UKIP voter Jerry
        Keep snearing if it pleases you.

        • Jerry
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2; “Depends how you define it”

          It really is quite simple, were will any profits end up, if not reinvested at the point of creations (in other words, the factory gate and thus factory location), in this instance profits made by the Honda car plant at Swindon will end up back with the Honda Motor Company, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, the parent company, thus the cars are Japanese even if they are assembled in the UK.

          “One company I know well does over one million pounds of business with Honda every year and this supports over 100 well paid jobs in just this company.”

          You mean that they would not be doing that sort of business if we still had a successful UK owned car industry?!

          “You sound like an old aged UKIP voter Jerry”

          Nonsense, I want the UK to be more like Germany and France, not less!

          “Keep snearing if it pleases you.”

          I’m not the one sneering, I’m not the one desperately trying to pretend that the UK still has a UK car industry. Good luck to those who work for Honda, BMW, Nissan, Peugeot Citroën etc. assembling such great products.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 23, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

            Are you claiming Germany and France do not have any “foreign” companies investing and employing people in their countries Jerry?
            Because if you do you are much mistaken.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 24, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            Jerry

            Lesson no 43 in Jerry knows nothing about business

            In September 2012, Honda announced a £267 million investment programme in the Swindon site. This was to support the introduction of new models of the Civic and CR-V, and an new 1.6-litre diesel engine. The investment would take total investment at the site to around £1.5 billion, and would increase the workforce to 3,500.

            “It really is quite simple, were will any profits end up”

            Why? what does that matter? Do you know where the profits of a “British ” manufacturer end up ?

            I asked you earlier what constitutes a British company?

            I thought you were an engineer Jerry, your constant sneering about car assembly is laughable. All the car makers of whatever “nationality” assemble whole cars made from components manufactured in other plants .

            The Ford plant at Dagenham used to assemble whole cars. They now manufacture 1.4 million engines per year. They are the LARGEST producer of Ford diesel engines globally.

            You do know that McLaren and A Kahn are just 2 British design companies that produce work for Mercedes don’t you?

            There are dozens and dozens of specialist British automotive engineers, designers and manufacturers doing work for all the worlds major “car assemblers”.

            Jerry you boasted on here a while back to LL that you knew all about the F1 motor racing business. So Jerry tell me where nearly ALL of them are based, tell me where nearly all of them manufacture their cars . Who manufactures most of the worlds race cars at every other category Jerry?

            I own 3 cars (2 German and one Italian). All of them incorporate design work or components from British engineers

  11. margaret
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t it Harold Wilson who encouraged us in the past to buy British . I usually buy British cheeses and other dairy products also and the supermarket voted best of the year last year specialises in these British products at a reasonable cost . There is room for further manufacturing in farming technology and the improvement of small garden machinery. Who can keep a strimmer longer than a year or two? They always break.

    We have new designs in drive way materials and I wondered where these originated and havn’t had time to look into it as yet; no doubt the people like Peter Jones have their eyes on the main chance.

    We need improved computer designs .Is any one working on this?

  12. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Trump says the pretty much the same…he doesn’t like Chinese double glazing stuff particularly. I have to buy directly from China for electronic and other parts that are either not made here or are shipped in and sold at high prices. Parcelforce makes a fortune handing it to HMRC to bill me.

    I thought TaTa was taking Land Rover Defender to Croatia? Stopping business making a profit means they’ll go..obviously. Nobody wants to get up in the morning for little reward so selling/letting houses seems to be the norm.

    I still remember Alan Sugar complaining about circuit board auto insertion tools that he could only get from Panasonic Japan. Think he gave up and went to flogging property and (word left out ed) PCs largely.

    Near me is a Japanese CNC company and expanding, I just wonder I really do!

  13. JimS
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    We did sell dairy products to Russia but following the EU’s failed attempt to take over Ukraine we now can’t.

    • Mitchel
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      This is becoming a major story across Europe and has resulted in a price crash in the affected commodities;Perhaps the EU should buy up all the unsold produce and create a Urals of cheese on the Polish and Lithuanian borders…to help keep out all those Russian tanks that so threaten the more excitable amongst us!

  14. petermartin2001
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I’m just about old enough to remember those “I’m buying British” campaigns of the 60’s and similar grand plans of how exports could be increased. They didn’t work then and they are unlikely to work any better now.

    Doubling exports by 2020 would seem to be most improbable. I’d give Liz Kendall a better chance of winning the Labour leadership.

    Having said that, I would like to see at least a discussion on how the trade deficit can be reduced. It would need quite a big devaluation. Not because there’s necessarily anything wrong, per se, with having a trade defict. We can only have such a luxury because the big exporters like Switzerland, China, Denmark, Germany and others are quite happy to buy our gilts. If they want to do that I’d be happy to let them.

    But if we did balance our trade, there’d be much less pressure from political groupings, who don’t understand such concepts as sectoral balances, to balance the govt budget. That would certainly be a good thing!

    At one time the trade figures used to make the news. Maybe they should again?

  15. Anonymous
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    The NHS is actually quite brilliant at selling our doctors, nurses and auxiliaries abroad.

    Richard Littlejohn hits the nail on the head today, comparing the French government with the British. (The Calais issue.)

    The difference between the two ? The French government will always put their own people first. The British puts everyone else’s people first.

    John. You are in no position to criticise other organisations. Yours is the absolute worst for waste, pointlessness, uselessness…

    We don’t need government for the country (not) to be run the way it is at the moment.

    • DaveM
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      “The French government will always put their own people first. The British puts everyone else’s people first.”

      Why is that John? We don’t do that at “street level” – we always look after our own. Why is our government scared of looking after the country which trusts it with its life? Are you scared some people might not like you?

      • Anonymous
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        Dave – Don’t expect an answer.

        John was part of the government that told the country ‘on yer bike’ and when we voted for that didn’t realise that it wasn’t just lefty unionist’s jobs they were directing that at. Those that voted Tory several times were dismayed to find their own work being outsourced too – and now competitors for work being INSOURCED as well… after five years of Tory rule… and it’s getting WORSE !

        Like the rest of ’em John’s in it for himself and not taking the same medicine he helped administer to the little people when their work was made obsolete and outsourced, as politics has been in Britain today.

        • DaveM
          Posted August 21, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          It’s not just that though.

          Why does the govt allow our soldiers to be prosecuted whilst compensating our enemies with our taxes? Why are all our wounded servicemen taken care of by charities while self-proclaimed enemies of the state receive legal aid and 6-bed houses?

          Why are criminals given better treatment than victims? Why do foreign/immigrant child-grooming rings get covered over whilst the victims are treated with contempt? Those victims are just as English as Richard Branson.

          Why do we overregulate our fishing industry whilst the French and Spanish run riot over EU rules? Then, when our fishermen catch nothing on the 2 days a month they’re allowed to fish, and are so desperate for cash that they fish ‘illegally’ (although how you can fish illegally in your own territorial waters is beyond me) they get put in jail. But at the same time the govt hands out benefits to scroungers and foreigners – benefits paid for from the taxes paid by those fishermen!!!

          All of this goes against normal human behaviour. The only reason is that the politicians want votes and are scared of being branded something-or-other by the press.

          Sick of it. Never has the expression “lions led by [scared little] donkeys” been more true. Where can I find a real Tory party with true red-blooded Brits in it?

  16. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    At the moment (and this may soon change) we are living in a global economy. I ate Kenyan beans yesterday.
    I know a milk producer who loved his cattle who was forced out of business when he made a loss in his milk: he was a very good farmer, not a businessman. I would love to eat mutton or hogget and use wool but it is far too expensive – although the sheep farmers only get pennies for their fleeces and a couple of quid for their sheep. So much for British farmers?
    Me – I go for value. If things are good value, I buy. If not, not.

    What we need to do is to make sure that our stuff sells. I think we are pretty patchy here.
    And our school and universities have been producing stuff that is absolutely not fitting for the modern global world. (Nuclear power stations? Working railways? Nurses?)

  17. agricola
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    You have chosen a multi faceted subject today. At first glance simplistic, but in fact highly complex.

    I will not talk of the milk industry and added value, but I agree with you on the subject of English cheese, as varied in design and appeal as that which comes out of France. Long may it continue. Government, were it not in the lobbying pockets of the supermarkets, could do a lot to stabilise the home grown food industry and the health of the nation. I do not hold much hope in this area.

    Homes I have dealt with in the past. To achieve quality, quantity, and the incorporation of the best in energy conservation, homes should be built in factories, not brick by brick.

    As to cars, what is a UK car? At best it is Caterham, Morgan, and Lotus. None of which will set the export world on fire. If you dig deep into any of them you will probably find many foreign built components. The only large volume motor cycle range we build is largely sourced in component form overseas in terms of value. It is all based on quality, price , and availability.

    The indigenous UK volume car industry was a disaster largely of management, and in it’s final throw, (an unedifying story ed). Now we have Nissan, owned I believe by Renault. Honda and Toyota owned in Japan. Land Rover Jaguar owned by Tata in India. BMW producing cars and engines in the UK, but owned in Germany. All of whom now produce high quality reliable vehicles. However if you poke about inside them you find that many of the components come from sources all over the World, as well as the UK. Car manufactures are in part designers and assemblers, it is the component industry that is at their heart and which one should encourage within the UK. It makes sense in terms of security of supply. One big earthquake in Japan and everyone in the car industry feels the effect.

    In further support of the UK I would add that we have many below the radar companies that create much of the technological progress in vehicle manufacture for clients worldwide. Names such as Cosworth Engineering and Ricardo spring to mind, but I know there are many others. To this you can add the Formula 1 industry ,largely based in the UK, as the testing house for technology. I have omitted to talk of Vans , Trucks and specialist vehicles because of a lack of knowledge. Do not however forget JCB ,a home grown world leader in earth moving.

    The public sector largely sell outcomes, clean streets and a healthy population. We have all experienced the highs and lows of their achievements, and have views on how the highs might be more consistently achieved. The weakness in what they do is that it is not done in a competitive environment. There is no pressure to do better next week, except that which may come from personal motivation. Thank god that they do not make cars or aeroplanes. The trick for government will be to achieve the motivation without destroying the outcome. I would suggest you look at the Toyota management ethos, but this will be difficult when the civil service is in the same black hole as the services they control.

    • oldtimer
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Re cars you should not overlook the roles played by the Wilson government and, later, Wedgewood Benn in influencing its fortunes, usually for the worse.

      As you say, the car industry is now global. Many of the cars that are now exported from the UK, and especially beyond the EU, are premium priced products. A rough and ready demonstration of that is provided by Jaguar Land Rover`s latest annual report. Last year 462,000 unit sales generated £21,866 million of revenues, or c£47,000 per unit; at retail the value would be even higher. JLR`s share of global car sales is a tiny 0.75%.

      Globally JLR employed c32,000 people at a cost (including social security and pension costs) of £1,977 million – equivalent to £61, 537 per employee. Most of these are in the UK. It is not surprising, given this data, that once its UK factories are working full tilt, that JLR is looking at further expansion closer to its markets (like every other manufacturer). The UK is a relatively high cost country. It will require much ingenuity and creative skills to develop compelling products that can be sold around the world.

  18. peter
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Given new technologies like 3D printing surely there has to be opportunities to make things in almost fully automated ways thus negating the cheap labour advantages of the Far East.

    • libertarian
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Peter

      Absolutely right, the big trend is exactly that re-shoring , bringing back to UK small manufacturing plants, happening all over Kent where I live

  19. English Pensioner
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Some years ago, I heard an American businessman explaining how glad he was that Britain was in the EU. Apparently he put down his company’s ability to get more sales abroad to the extra costs that his competitors incurred meeting EU requirements, even though they were totally irrelevant to his customers.

  20. Richard1
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I guess being forced to buy only British made cars is one of the costs of public life – at least its not such a penance now as it was in the days the car industry was nationalised and the cars unusable! I think the Govt should purchase British goods and services when they offer the best value for the money. Where they don’t the Govt should procure abroad. Great if UK goods and services are competitive. If they arnt, no point subsidising them with soft contracts. We dont want any version of Obama’s absurd 1930s-protectionist style Buy American Act. Where this is really important is defence equipment. we should remember Lord Heseltine attempting to foist a sub-optimal helicopter on the MoD in the 1980s because it was ‘European’.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      I remember it well Richard, I remember it well!

      Tad

    • Hefner
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Richard First, if you refer to the Westland affair, you should at least have your facts right. Look at Wikipedia “the Westland affair” and you’ll realise it was slightly more complicated than Michael “Heseltine attempting to foist a sub-optimal helicopter on the MoD”.
      Maybe you could also have said that Mrs T wanted to foist a sub-optimal Westland-US Sikorsky helicopter.

  21. Kenneth
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    At the moment our own regulations and, in particular those imposed from abroad by the eu, are working against exports.

    Therefore it’s no wonder so many countries around the world want us to remain shackled to the eu.

  22. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The immediate British government response to the Horsemeat scandal was to ask a very large supermarket chain to “source its food imports more carefully “. So it sent off one of its reps to a small far eastern country and did an official accompanied tour of one enterprise, received assurances, and that was that. Therefore the British government had thus ticked the box marked “Done something” and the importer and retailer had ticked the box marked “Responded” .

    A number but not all British Local Authorities decided to have school dinners tested and alarming results were obtained. No British company, nor any companies based in the UK was able to implement but a fraction of the number of tests on food necessary to the problem in hand nor hundreds of other tests for other possible accidental and deliberately added contaminants. Only a small French company ( now considerably bigger ) had the technology.

    There has to be a change of culture in Britain. “British” must mean more than it does at the moment. Nationalisation as happened here as well as the eastern bloc introduced and promoted slipshod work and a culture diluting the national pride necessary to continue with the British attitude : “If the job is worth doing, it is worth doing right”

    Privatisation, although technically, getting the job done , has proved pitifully inadequate and actually traitorous to the sourcing of British goods, manufacturing within Britain, and honouring, promoting and caring for British workers.

    The Conservative government, for example, thought it thoroughly British and terribly good business to buy and import coal from Poland which not only was run by a Communist Party totally allied to the USSR but was actually governed by the military dictator General Jaruzelski.

    The Labour Party by contrast thinks our Britishness, what is left of it, should be diluted, perverted and ignored in the superstate of the EU…a similar institution to the former USSR but with on sale Coca Cola and American plastic cupped expensive coffee.

    There has to be something formed in Britain akin to the State Capitalism of China…A strong instinctive feeling for ones Country is necessary for any kind of economics, any kind of politics, to work.

  23. DaveM
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I think we need to start backing ourselves a bit more, and that starts with the government. Stop thinking that everyone else can do it better, and start using imports as a last resort rather than the first choice. Cut energy prices, VAT, transport costs, and so on.

    I get fed up with hearing that the Chinese do maths better, teach better, and so on. I get fed up with hearing how we should look elsewhere for good ideas. I look at Shanghai and see a western-looking city populated by people wearing western clothes and learning English. I don’t see this country’s buildings being replaced by oriental or middle eastern style buildings, and I don’t see everyone in England (or elsewhere in Europe) walking around in foreign-style clothing.

    What I’m trying to say is that the rest of the world has pretty much copied us, not vice-versa. Look at India for example. They might have made a few improvements but we should have done that too.

    But, like in football, cricket, etc, we got complacent and took our eyes off the ball and got overtaken, then started looking for easy options abroad rather than addressing the problems at home. But look what can happen when we learn lessons from abroad and back our own ability. Still with the sport analogy, look what happened when we decided we wanted to win cycling!

    We have the skills and the ability to train world class people, and we have the people to train. What we need to do is to stop looking abroad to replace indigenous workers, and start training our own people. And the government needs to ensure that our ‘makers’ and ‘sellers’ have a fair playing field, even if it means bypassing EU regulations. I’ve no doubt the French would ignore every regulation in the world if it meant giving Renault a head start against Vauxhall.

    People genuinely WANT to buy British – make it affordable and possible, and they will.

  24. Tad Davison
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I will always buy British whenever I possibly can as I’d rather give a British bloke a job, than a Frenchman or a German, and I don’t see a problem with that. However, recently, I bought a car manufactured in Belgium, that despite its large size, is reckoned to do 88 MPG on a run and 60 MPG around town. I simply could not find a British car of comparable quality that could get anywhere near those figures, or I would have bought one.

    The manufacturer in question does make some cars in in the UK, but not to the same specification and customers have to draw the line somewhere.

    Years ago, I had an old Triumph Tiger Cub that I built from spares, and if ever a motorbike gave the lie to the phrase that ‘British is Best’, it was that thing! I could never get the ignition timing right, and with Triumph’s reputation for ‘rubber forks’, the rider was having to really hang onto it every time they went around a corner. In 1976, I bought a brand new Honda CB 250, and the difference in the two was astronomical. The Honda ran like a bit of silk compared to the Cub. It was smooth, reliable, fairly quick for its day, and looked great.

    As for trains, well that’s another area where we British gave something to the world (in the modern context) yet we now import them from abroad rather than make them ourselves. And I won’t even begin to say what I think about the purchase of the F35 for the Royal Navy and RAF, except that we once led the world in aviation, and should never have let that lead slip.

    As a country, we need to get our act together, so hopefully the present government’s policy will herald the necessary changes and get us building things others want to buy, and simply put, our stuff needs to be better in order to overcome the desire by others to buy from domestic markets.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • forthurst
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      …and I thought only I had those problems with a Tiger Cub!

      As to the aircraft industry, I remember as a child having a free pass to the Farnborough Air Show in which every year the planes, both civil and military would be English designed and manufactured, and every year there was something new to marvel at, but then, of course there was a multiplicity of aircraft manufacturers which had not yet been forged by genius politicians into one company that appears incapable of producing more than a basic trainer without assistance from most of Western Europe.

      • bluedog
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        I was there at Farnborough too as a child! It was the most amazing display of creativity and ingenuity, absolutely inspiring.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Look around you in Cambridge.
      Without naming names you have some of the world’s most innovative medical device and design companies within 20 miles of the centre.

      • Tad Davison
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        That’s true Joe, but it’s very specialised. A friend of mine owns a company that makes medical cabinets, and my son is the UK sales manager for a company that makes VERY high-end audio equipment (and we’re talking £250,000 for a complete system!). Volume business is altogether more difficult to get into.

        Tad

  25. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Doubling exports by 2020, in just five years, may prove a bit difficult when it will take a few decades to sort out the rubbish education system we now have, for which the blame rests just as much with parents, and even in some cases grandparents, who themselves are the products of that rubbish system as it has steadily deteriorated since the 1960’s and tend to assume that it is the way to go about educating our children, as with the teachers who have to try to work within a system where pupils are unused to any kind of discipline.

    Watching the recent BBC programmes where Chinese teachers tried to teach children at what was said to be one of the best of our state schools, the behaviour of the children was (poor? ed) and made me ashamed, as did the attitude of most of their parents.

    This is why many employers actively prefer to take on immigrants from countries where the education system has not yet been wrecked in the same way as ours has been over the past five decades, although it must be expected that the children of those immigrants will be corrupted when they go to our schools and so be rendered no more useful than the children of the present indigenous population.

  26. Bert Young
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    British production is , of course , devoid of most raw materials , so the approach to successful manufacture has to be with higher added value . The remnants of the automotive industry here are surviving because of the international connections they have and the way world markets are now served ; the only exceptions are the design and creativity areas . All things considered , it is difficult to still buy a “British”car .

    During the 70’s most labour intensive manufacturing was driven abroad due to lower wage costs there and Union difficulty here . Things are slowly changing now as other economies catch up with us and become more consumer driven . Our future can be much more positive if we take advantage of our entrepreneurial drive and produce here rather than abroad – our technology can overcome the existing differences in wage costs .

  27. bluedog
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    ‘In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that? There is nothing the British do not have. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I’m going to buy a British radio set – then at least I’ll own something that has always worked.’ Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, 1943.

    The way we were. Will we hear Angela Merkel say something similar to David Cameron? Where are those British geniuses today? Where is the old self-confidence and swagger? Sadly there isn’t a British consumer electronics industry any longer, and the British motor industry is largely foreign owned, as are so many of the industrial companies that dominated the economy until the late 1980’s. ICI? Gone to Holland. Pilkington’s? Gone to Japan. Cadbury-Schweppes? Gone to the US. The breweries? Broken up and sold off to Belgians or South Africans. It’s an extraordinary story, and requires a fundamental rethink if there is to be a different outcome in which the right to manage is again regarded as important. The post-Big Bang City made fortunes flogging off the British family silver and now there’s nowhere for the geniuses to work. They mainly went to the US too.

  28. Colin Hart
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    If you drive a Ford you have no idea where it was made.

    We are the only country in the EU that takes the procurement rules seriously. One consequence is that a number of local authorities who once outsourced their IT have taken it back in house rather than go through a tendering process. As a result they have saddled themselves with employment on-costs but they are probably less prone to being ripped off.

  29. Malcolm Browne
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The idea that we should support our own industries is very commendable, but should also mean that UK industries, in their purchasing policies, should support other UK industries whenever possible.
    A long time ago, I remember the late and unlamented British Leyland using the UK flag in one of their TV advertising campaigns. The same British Leyland who bought American computers, when equivalent British designed and made computer systems were available.
    The British IT company has now been absorbed by Fujitsu of Japan.

    • forthurst
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      “The British IT company has now been absorbed by Fujitsu of Japan.”

      That would be the one forged from the International computers and Tabulators, English Electric and Elliot Automation in much the same way as British Leyland Motor Corporation ie by meddling and incompetent politicians whose technical and business nous was zilch, throwing together incompatible assets and expecting success.

      • David Price
        Posted August 22, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        I worked in ICL R&D for a while and experienced the atrocious management first hand. But that doesn’t change Malcolm Browne’s observation that there seems to have been between UK companies, and government, a lack of the solidarity shown in competitor countries.

        Management can be rubbish in other countries, I observed and experience this directly with US, Canadian and French companies, but they also operate policies and attitudes that prefers their local and national suppliers and companies over foreign ones. The British establishment and media on the other hand have what appears to be the completely opposite policy, one of industrial and commercial suicide.

  30. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Britain has bought into a minimalist culture. owning your own home ( laudable but pathetic ), already means for the great majority …a minimalist approach to floor and garden area; a minimalist housing regulation in regard to the breadth of cavity wall, in opposition to best practice of many other advanced countries creating massive medium to long-term problems in regard to sustained structure and, a minimalist housing regulation of height of ceilings, cubic metres of available fresh air, and hermetically sealed lego-like doors and windows causing breeding of airborne fungi with as yet quite unknown consequences…due to complex bio-chemicals and virtually un-researched organisms generated. Buy British? No? Not with those cheapo anti-British shanty town building regulations.

    And as if the human home living spaces were not grossly inadequate, people are encouraged to buy cheapo foreign bric-a-brac from down town cheapo shops to ornament and make bearable their matchbox living conditions. Their homes crammed choc-a-bloc with “it-might-come-in-usefuls” in a desire and need to save money.

    Buy British should be “Buy Big” . We do not have room, lest it be pocket-sized, for migrants. It is a violation of their human rights to allow them to live here.

  31. forthurst
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “The government has set an ambitious target to double UK exports by 2020.”

    Where’s the plan? Is national governance the last redoubt of the ungifted amateur? Get the ‘net’ immigration down to tens of thousands etc; method: bomb Libya and Syria into failed state status and then engage in grandstanding in Calais over the potentially hundreds of thousands of newly created refugees pressing to belong to our international welfare state.

    How to improve industrial competition: housebuilding and ceramics require energy to fire kilns as does metal forming; solution, make energy more expensive and unreliable. High technology: as the latest A level results demonstrate, boys are still well ahead of girls in subjects that matter, the STEM subjects. Solution force, force all high engineering companies to employ female directors by quota and pressure them to employ more people who are not in point of fact English and male.

    If a public company asserted the ambition to double its exports in five years it would also be expected to produce a plan to create the infrastructure and employ the additional, qualified on the basis of ability, human resources to achieve it, possibly something slightly more credible than George Brown’s National Plan or George Osborne’s stated ambition.

  32. agricola
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Early in your submission you talked about English Cheese. From a marketing point of view this makes it little different from any other cheese.

    It is absolutely necessary to give it an identity in name and location. You then have a specific product, not just cheese. I used to try to sell this concept to the asparagus growers of Bretforton. They did not seem to understand the need in 1976, I hope they do now.

    I had a look at the Cheese Marketing Board website. They omit to mention my all time favourite Waterloo. Surely it cannot be in fear of offending the French. They do this in drawing attention to British Camembert, and British Brie. Maybe their cop out is in listing Parmesan. Insults all round. One could hope the French sue them.

    On the ground at my local Carrefour there is a limited selection of English cheeses which only goes to emphasise all the omissions. However pretty their website you cannot read it in Spanish, French, German or Portuguese . They are preaching the virtues of English Cheese to the English, far too inward looking. Not very export oriented. I will change my mind when Waterloo appears on the shelves in Carrefour. Perhaps they should give the job to a professional marketing organisation rather than a quango.

  33. David Price
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Looks like your choice of car is dwindling rapidly if you wish to buy British. It seems that JLR has moved manufacture of the next Land Rover Defender to Slovakia.

    I’m sure a few more Mayfair or Bayswater appartments can be sold to some rich Russians to cover the shortfall in taxes, shame about the jobs and future income though.

    • oldtimer
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Where is your evidence that JLR will manufacture the next Defender in Slovakia? There is none. What JLR has announced is a feasibility study, not a decision, to build a factory with c300,000 unit capacity in Slovakia. If it gets built, it is more likely to be producing Jaguar XEs, XFs and a new Range Rover Evoque off the same technology than a new Defender.

      • David Price
        Posted August 22, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        Reported in latest Auto Express editorial page 7.

        Maybe they’ll change the decision, maybe it is simply a negotiating position to get grants or whatever from the UK government. Frankly I don’t see this government or establishment doing their utmost to retain the skills and manufacturing here. They have done very little over the 30+ years I worked in technology companies as foreign concerns have taken them over while the media have aided and abetted them by denigrating industry and enterprise.

        The only thing that seems to matters is the City, financial services and now the “Northern Powerhouse”, even our host talks comparitively little about the local region on this blog.

        Reply What region? Berks Bucks and Oxon, or Thames Valley, or The South, or the South East, or the South east minus London, or greater greater London? I regularly talk about matters which affect my local economy, but many of them are national matters – tax, regulation, national infrastructure, energy etc

        • David Price
          Posted August 22, 2015 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          @Reply
          Thames Valley and perhaps beyond. What has stuck in my mind are your many references to the City as a source of wealth and the Oxford, Cambridge and London Triangle in the context of R&D, but I can’t remember anything like the same extent of coverage for the enterprise of the more local area.

          What of the extensive IT industry, avaiation, space and satellite systems, formula 1 engine development, telecommunicati0ns R&D and headquarters. Push a bit further out and you have the brithplace of RepRap 3D printers in Bath, an innovation that has been compared to the start of personal computing.

          The area is not just a dormitory for London commuters.

          Reply I have often visited and written about success stories in my own constituency, which has an enterprise culture and very low unemployment with a skilled and well educated workforce.

        • oldtimer
          Posted August 22, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          That is journalist`s speculation. JLR`s press release referred to “a range of aluminium JLR vehicles”. The same speculation has been aired about other places around the world where JLR is exploring expansion options. It was even suggested about JLR`s recently announced manufacturing partnership with Magna Steyr in Austria – though this seems more likely to be a contract
          to produce electric versions of JLR products.

          • DavidPrice
            Posted August 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            A journalists speculation maybe, I am not privy to those discussions or versed in that industry. If there is a move wherever being considered so publically then I would have expected much more noise from a government if it were truly concerned about retaining the skills and industry. But apart from that item I haven’t seen anything in the general press. Can you imagine another country’s government being so supine in similar circumstances?

            That journalist was very sanguine about production moving out of the UK to Slovakia, he saw no problem with it at all. This is the same attitude displayed by so many people who are not involved in the production of products, This kind of thing doesn’t matter to them until they are directly or indirectly affected. Good to know though, I’ll never buy his rag again.

  34. Gary
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    we should buy out of quality and price, not patriotism. Because if we are only buying out of patriotism, then we have an export market of zero, by definition

    BTW it is becoming evident that the stock markets were reaching record levels, not because of increasing sales, but because of artificially cheap money by central bank rigging. If your cost to borrow and buyback shares and cash out in options is cheaper than the cost of growing sales to grow market cap, then you are staring at an incoming train smash. Caterpillar, one of the bellwether stocks that correlates fairly well with economic growth, has had falling sales for more than 20 months. We have(had) soaring markets with few fundamentals.

    This is what happens when you try and “manage” an economy. Buckle up, it may get very turbulent.

  35. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Buy British indeed! The British economy and nation aside from the cheerleaders in the Conservative Party is on the brink of a humiliating defeat on a par with the Raid on Chatham in June 1667.

    We British, as described by our American cousins, say we look at a glass as half empty and they themselves regard it as half full. No we don’t. No they don’t. We look at a glass as empty but for no other reason that we are British is bound to be filled at the expense of the rest of the world: the Americans look at a glass irrespective of their best eyesight as it runneth over and goodness and mercy shall…. In the British case it is arrogant over optimism and in the American case it is arrogant over-optimism.
    We buy British at our peril. Most of our stuff is rubbish. Most of it according to Mr Cameron and the Labour Party is made by foreign migrants. Unfortunately too few of them are Dutch or German

    • David Price
      Posted August 22, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      Except most of “our stuff” isn’t rubbish, why would foreign concerns take over our companies unless it were otherwise?

      I also wouldn’t take an American centric perspective as gospel, they are quite competitive and hapy to deploy all methods to contain and beat the opposition.

  36. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Much as I love English cheese, if politicians are needed to promote them . . . 🙂
    For retreating within Britain, buying British might be a good idea, but for becoming more of a an exporting country like Germany (which e.g. exports 4x more to China than the UK, thanks to EU standards? 🙂 ) it must be done through focusing on your potential customers abroad. There would be quite a bit of interest in British products if they were available more easily abroad (Marks & Spencer a good example).

    • petermartin2001
      Posted August 21, 2015 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      Peter van Leeuwen,

      I’m just wondering if there is anyone in Holland or Germany challenging the exports are good, imports are bad mantra that has close to universal acceptance there.

      What is with this idea? Why are you guys so keen to ship twice as much stuff to the UK as we ship to you and just take our IOUs in return? Doesn’t anyone think about that? Of course its good to swap Dutch Gouda for Red Leicester (although we’d all have our opinions on which tasted better) but why insist on sending us a continued surplus of the Gouda over the Leicester?

      Mind you, most people in the UK think they are getting a worse deal than if we had to give you more of our Stilton and you sent less of your Edam.

      If the UK had insisted that Germany send us a surplus of tens thousands of cars every year for 100 years after WW2 as a sort of war reparation, international opinion would be outraged. Holland wasn’t even an enemy country yet both you and the Germans are quite happy to sell us all this stuff and even lend us the money back at ultra low rates of interest, and with no thought of what it might be worth in the future or you’d ever be able to spend it on, so we can keep doing it!

      It’s all very nice of you I must say. Thank you very much!

      • Gary
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        The Germans don’t take our IOUs , they take the American IOUs for trade, and then try and convert them into gold bullion currently stored in New York. Unfortunately the Germans were told that their gold is gone. That refrain will become a cacophony. I don’t know if the meltdown is upon us, but it is looking ominous. Cue another round of QE. Better hope it works for a while.

        • petermartin2001
          Posted August 23, 2015 at 4:07 am | Permalink

          Of course trade between the UK and Germany can be in US$, £, gold or anything else as agreed between buyer and seller.

          But ultimately all that UK buyers have to pay with are UK £. Unless the big exporters are prepared to take those pounds in exchange for their goods and services there won’t be any trade in those G&S.

          The position with Germany isn’t quite what it was because Germany now don’t have its own currency. Denmark still does and still has a big export surplus both with the UK and the ROW. So the UK pays in pounds – but the Danish bacon producers don’t want pounds they want Krone to settle their bills and pay their workers etc. Left to the workings of the free market the Krone would appreciate to such a level as to equalise Danish trade.

          However, in their wisdom (or otherwise), the Danish government has decided to supply more bacon to us than we can really afford. So it directs its central bank to just create Krone (from thin air) to satisfy the bacon producers and also keep the Krone from getting too expensive.

          It then uses the surplus pounds to buy Gilts which keeps the pound high and allows the UK govt to deficit spend those surplus pounds back into the UK economy.

      • outsider
        Posted August 21, 2015 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        Dear Peter, Forgive me but I am getting confused. Your argument about trade deficits being a good thing and the exporters being fools (which you are continuing from Mr Redwood’s earlier post) is one I am used to hearing with some exasperation from dogmatic laissez faire free market fundamentalists. But I know that is not your standpoint. Evidently we are in a period of flux in ideas, with people rushing past in all directions. That is good.
        For me the choice is simple. Do we want to have the consumer goods now and a public deficit to prop up the economy or would we prefer to have the jobs first, generating output growth, higher wage incomes (and tax revenues).
        If the system is working as per textbooks, of course, trade is always moving to balance.
        Forced to make a choice, I back the Dutch and the Germans, though not China’s extreme mercantilist policy. Germans do not seem to be unduly deprived of consumer goods.

        • petermartin2001
          Posted August 23, 2015 at 2:59 am | Permalink

          Outsider,

          I didn’t say that exporters, themselves, were fools. Obviously it makes sense for any company to sell its products to wherever they can find customers. Providing they get paid it doesn’t matter to them if their customers are local or domestic.

          The goods and services available to people in the UK are essentially what is made in the UK plus what can be imported minus what is exported. So if we export more than we import we have less available than we would otherwise.

          If we take this argument to its logical conclusion then the more we import and the less we export the better. I’d place limits that argument though. We do need to ensure continuity of supply of essential commodities. Food would be the #1 consideration. We’d also need to make sure we could make steel again if we had to for example.

          On a perhaps more moral level, I’d say we shouldn’t be a freeloader on anyone else either and we should try to keep our trade approximately in balance. Maybe a 10% of GDP deficit would be a reasonable limit.

          Its about 6% now which is OK providing we understand the effect that has on the other deficit, ie the Govt budget’s deficit.

          China has a trade surplus of 2% whereas Germany runs a surplus of 7% and Holland 10%! So its not China we should be accusing of mercantilism. Even so, that wouldn’t be a problem to anyone else if Holland and Germany had their own currencies.

          But, as they are part of the EZ their surpluses drain euros from the economies of their trading partners leaving them short. Govts have to try to borrow to keep their economies functioning and that leads to the sort of problems we see there.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 23, 2015 at 9:22 am | Permalink

            Should imports between Warwickshire and Worcestershire also be restricted ?
            Just in case they are nit balanced?
            Ive heard some nonsense from you driven by your economic pet theory, but you desire to virtually stop all international trading by restricing exports and reducing imports so we become self sufficient is the most ridiculous I have ever heard.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted August 22, 2015 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        @petermartin2001: Britain is no Greece, we have no worries about being paid. Still a pity that I usually would need to go to a specialist shop to get my blue stilton. A bit more British marketing effort would help to change that.

        • petermartin2001
          Posted August 23, 2015 at 3:29 am | Permalink

          Blue Stilton is a very good cheese. There’s also the less well known Blue Cheshire (more my neck of the woods) which is my favourite. You might want to give that a try if you see it.

          I’m sure Dutch exporters shouldn’t have too many problems with the UK customers. But, that is only because we still have the pound. If we need another £375 billion to bail out the banks there’s no problem at all. Hey presto! We just magic them up out of thin air! I don’t believe we could have done that had we been stuck with the euro.

          We’d have had to find that money from taxation and the UK economy would be in deep deep recession, even deep deep depression, as a result.

          Jeroen Dijsselbloem would be besides himself with rage with the irresponsiblity, as he would see it, of UK governments.

          So you can keep your euro, thank you very much. On the other hand you’re welcome to buy whatever cheese you like and give us whatever you like in exchange for our IOUs which obviously aren’t quite as worthless as Meneer Dijsselbloem might have predicted them to be when our QE program was in full swing.

  37. behindthefrogs
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    We need to give British goods an advantage by reducing employers’ NICs contributions.

  38. Iain Gill
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    On this one you are correct John, you won’t find the Germans buying their trains abroad.

  39. A different Simon
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    JFK said “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” .

    If the UK has 7 million German cars how much money does that amount to having sent overseas ? £140 billion .

    Then again if we produced them locally it would blow our “legally binding carbon budget” .

    German and French industry know they have a captive market because they can count on their state sector buying from them .

    Because of these guaranteed sales they are not likely to go out of business in a downturn like we are entering now !

  40. patryk
    Posted August 21, 2015 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Buying British is great but you should definitely try Polish sausage!

    • Mark
      Posted August 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      One of the consequences of absorbing so many migrants into the UK has been that they continue to prefer the goods they were familiar with in their home countries, which are imported in ever increasing quantities. It is now quite easy in many parts of the country to source Polish sausage from specialist shops, or fabrics for Indian saris, furniture made to specific foreign tastes and so forth. I suspect that migrant populations account for a far higher spend on imported items as a share of their total spending – a leakage that is usually excluded in calculating the economic benefits of migration alongside the remittances many of them make to their home countries.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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