Is James Bond the saviour of British manufacturing?

spectre1208141280jpg-398894_1280wEver since James Bond was sent on his first big screen mission in 1962’s Dr No, the most successful franchise in movie history has been a shop window for British manufacturing. Is Spectre, the latest incarnation of Ian Flemings infamous MI5 agent, going to continue to promote brand Britannia?

Bond famously has a weakness for British cars. Along side his famous Aston Martin  he has been spotted driving Landrovers (made in Coventry), a Lotus (made in Norfolk) as well as riding a Norton motorcycle (made in Leicestershire) and even at the helm of a Sunseeker Yacht (made in Hethel). In Spectre, Range Rover and Jaguar models once again line up alongside Bond’s trusty Aston.

But it is not just about the cars – Cumbria Crystal’s hand blow cut-crystal has been Daniel Craig’s whisky glass of choice thought his tenure as oo7 and is once again featured in the new film. And his tipple of choice? This is previously been Talisker whisky but apparently he has, in Spectre, now developed a taste for Macallan.

In addition, we are all aware of Bond as a well travelled gent but did you know that his luggage is made by British brand Globe-Trotter, from Hertfordshire, and that even his undies are British made, by Sunspel in Nottingham?

However, not everything about 007 is produced in the UK. Controversially, Bond has been sporting Omega watches in his last few outings. I would like to suggest that Bremont might be a better British alternative. And, mainly due to the films being produced by Sony pictures, he will continue to sport a Sony mobile phone in the latest film. Again, an alternative might be a phone produced by Vertu (Made in Hampshire). With their handsets starting at £5,000 a Virtue seems a little more his style anyway.

Lastly, James Bond has always been known as a dapper dresser and there are plenty of British made options for him to choose from. However, 007 tends to opt for Tom Ford suits, topped off with Tom Ford Sunglasses, which, while a British designer, I don’t believe makes any products in the UK.

So, our favourite not-so-secret-agent continues to fly the flag for Britain and what better advert could there be for the brilliance of British manufacturing?!

If you manage to spot anything else British made in the lasted James Bond movie please do let us know by commenting below.

No more British steel in a years time?

British Steel flotation 1988

British Steel flotation 1988

What a terrible few weeks for British steel manufacturing. The SSI Redcar plant has closed with a loss of 2,200 jobs, Tata Steel has announced 1,200 job losses at its plants in Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire and Caparo, based in Oldbury, has now bought in the administrators.  This issue is becoming so severe that as many as 1 in 6 British steel workers now face redundancy. Unions warn are warning that ‘there will be no British industry in a year’ if Caparo  is allowed to collapse. The knock on effects of these events could have a disastrous effects to UK industry as a whole.

Alarmingly the future of British steel seems to be at the mercy of the Chinese. The only realistic short term solution is for David Cameron and George Osborne to get on the phone to the Chinese president and plead for him to stop the devastating impact of ‘dumping’ huge amounts of cheap steel onto the international markets.

However, it might be suggested that China could greatly benefit from closing British Steel for good. Lets face it, in the short-term, HS2, Trident and the Hinckley power stations are likely to require a massive amount of steel over the coming years. If there is no domestic production guess where it will need to come from!? In a strange set of coincidences, the Chinese will likely win the contract for HS2 and will not only build but they will also own the Hinckley power station. I would also be willing to bet that as soon as British steel has been killed off the price of Chinese steel rockets… or am I just being cynical?

With thousands of families effected, and whole communities set to be decimated, the government’s recent ‘March of the Makers’ and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiates are starting to look a little meaningless. Certainly something more needs to be done. We have recently saved the bankers with an unprecedented bail out perhaps it is now time to save British steel? [But then David Cameron’s mates tend not to be steel workers, so don’t hold your breath].

Celebrating 36 years of the British Built Vauxhall Astra

The Vauhall Astra might not be as glamorous some British built cars, namely those produced by Jaguar, Morgan or Bentley, but it is perhaps no less a British icon. This year the lowly Astra, the car of the people, is celebrating an important milestone – the launch of it’s 7th incarnation. In real terms this means more than 36 years of continuous production in UK and that must be worth celebrating. At least, that is what Vauxhall thought…. so they made this rather inspiring video:

This new Astra is the 11th major model-line to be built at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and guarantees 2,000 jobs at the plant over the next decade. The plant secured a long-term contract in 2012 and a £140m investment which further demonstrates the brand’s continued commitment to manufacturing the car in Britain.  It is estimated that at full production in 2016, the plant will build around 680 Astras per day with further growth in subsequent years.

The British success story extends beyond the Astra itself – as for more than half a century, Ellesmere Port has been the manufacturing home of every compact class Vauxhall in the UK. With nearly 25% of parts sourced locally from UK suppliers, the plant is a significant contributor the local economy and the continued investment at the facility is set to boost UK manufacturing, utilities, construction, transportation and storage companies by at least £70m.

From Sunday Telegraph 13/9/15: The British Family’s guide to buying British

20150913_193343We were interviewed for part of a feature about one journalists efforts to buy British for a week in last Sundays Telegraph. For those that bought the paper there was actually a far larger article and a buying British quiz in the online version (We only got 9 our of 11 in the quiz). Anyway, we were asked to provide a brief bullet point guide to buying British…. so here it is:


Unlike in the 1950s and 1960s, there are very few British toy manufacturers around anymore. One of the few you are likely to find on the high street is Orchard Toys, which makes a wide range of fun and educational games and puzzles. There’s also Merrythought, which makes high quality teddy bears in the UK.

English wine

Once derided, English wine is now cool. Many of our own vineyards are producing wines of a world beating standard, especially some of the sparkling wines. From large producers like Denbies to smaller makers like The Squerryes Estate, there are many fantastic bottles on offer.

GB Sauce

It might surprise many that HP sauce is made in Holland but do not despair. New kids on the block, GB Sauce, make their whole range in the UK… plus they all taste fantastic.

Rapeseed oil

Unlike olive oil, it is easy to buy British produced rapeseed oil in all of the major supermarkets. Brands like Farrington and Hill Farm can be found quite easily and add a distinctly nutty flavour to meals.

Fake Britannia

Don’t be fooled by the Union flag on products. This does not mean that it is made in Britain. Look for the specific words “Made in Britain” or even our own made in Britain logo which is now used by more than 700 British manufacturers.

David Nieper set to double production and assist local school

Christopher Nieper - A British Manufacturing Hero!

Christopher Nieper – A British Manufacturing Hero!

Growing demand for clothing that is “Made in Britain” is fuelling David Nieper’s ambitions to double its production with the addition of a £750,000 cutting factory in Derbyshire. However, they also have big ambitions to help the local community.

The women’s clothing maker has just opened the new factory in Alfreton, just a short distance from the firm’s main premises, that is set to see their production double. This is of course good news for the company but also great news in securing local jobs.

News of the new factory came just days after the company announced that it had taken over a failing local school, offering investment and management in order to help get it out of special measures. The companies ambition for Alfreton Grange Arts College is to improve its Ofsted rating to “good” or “outstanding” status within three years.

People ask us why British manufacturing is important – well, manufacturers, especially where they are British owned, tend to understand the importance of the communities that rely on their factories. We regularly hear stories of manufacturers making huge differences to the people in their communities,   beyond the provision jobs (Interestingly, I have never heard of a bank going to the same lengths). Congratulations to David Nieper for continuing this tradition.

3,000 foreign-made vehicles bought for British police

The last British made police car on the road?

The last British made police car on the road?

£34 Million is to be handed to foreign vehicle manufacturers in a new police procurement deal. When Britain is the 4th largest automotive manufacturer in the world,  producing 1.6million cars and commercial vehicles every year, is this a new level of crazy?

The 3,000 new vehicles are being supplied to around half of the forces across the UK over the next 2 years and are confirmed the be the following models:

Peugeot 308 – made in Mulhouse and Sochaux, France
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 diesel – made in Ellesmere Port, UK
Peugeot 208 – made in Poissy and Mulhouse, France
Vauxhall Vivaro – made in Luton, UK
BMW 3 series – made in Munich, Germany
BMW 5 series – made in Dingolfing, Germany
BMW X5 – made in Spartanburg, USA
Ford Kuga 4X4 – made in Valencia, Spain

The only ones to be made in the UK are the Astra 1.6 diesel and the Vivaro van, both made by Vauxhall and worth only a small fraction of the total sums involved.

The 22 forces involved in the deal include the British Transport Police, Cleveland, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Police Scotland, South Wales, Surrey, Sussex and West Yorkshire.

British made vehicles were the mainstay of policing in the UK right up until the mid 1960’s when Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary controversially put an order for Volvo estate cars from Sweden. Today, you would be extremely lucky to spot a bobby on the beat in a British jam sandwich.

The issue here is quite clearly that the European Union procurement rules which force all public sector buying to go out to tender and then the cheapest deal must me chosen. This might be ok if the rest of Europe were also playing by the rules – go to Germany and find a police car that is not an Audi, a Mercedes, or a Volkswagen or to go to France and find a police car that is not a Peugeot, a Citreon or a Renault. It will never happen. Other countries can opt out from EU procurement rules to support their local manufacturers, Britain chooses not to.

The Met will be next

News has also just been release that the UK’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police, are just about to run their own procurement process to replace thousands of police vehicles in and around London.  Will they buy British?

Challenge time!

Using the list above, can you suggest some British manufactured alternatives that could have been chosen over the foreign built vehicles? Please comment below!

Should we be worried about Jaguar Land Rover moving production from the UK?


The Queen out for a drive in her Defender

As part of plans to boost its worldwide production, Jaguar Land Rover has recently agreed to build a new plant in Slovakia. JLR have steadily unveiled plans to manufacture outside of Britain since being bought by Indian firm Tata, opening its first overseas manufacturing plant in China in October last year. Should we be worried about the iconic British brands future in the UK?

JLR have recently announced that it is to build a new plant in the western Slovak city of Nitra. Up to 300,000 vehicles a year could soon be built at the new factory. The model anticipated to be produced there is non-other than the new Defender. While this has not been confirmed by JLR, the first vehicles are expected to roll off the new production line in 2018 and this same year is also the one in which we expect the next-generation Defender is to appear in the dealerships. Coincidence?

The company have also said that as part of plans to bring production closer to major markets, the firm will open a plant in Brazil in 2016 and have signed a manufacturing partnership to build models in the Austrian city of Graz.

Tata bought the admittedly ailing British brand in 2008 and has more than doubled it’s profits in the past 4 years alone. However, it would seem that in less than 10 years of ownership Tata will have moved a significant proportion of the manufacturing overseas.

Personally, I feel it would be a real shame if the Defender model (or a derivative of it) was produced abroad, such is the iconic nature of it in British culture. Defenders have been made in the UK continuously for nearly 70 years, are said to be the most recognised vehicle in the world and are even a favourite of The Queen herself.

Like many of the once British brands now sold to foreign owners, we have little control over the destiny of Jaguar Land Rover. Tata, I am sure, will make the vehicles in whatever country is cheapest to produce them in, with little regard for heritage, tradition or [dare I say] British workers. If this is the start of JLR pulling out of the UK we have, I am afraid, no power to stop it.

What’s the price of a pint of milk?


Stolen without kind permission of the BBC (but I do pay my licence fee, so I should be ok)

British dairy farmers being squeezed on the price of milk by the big supermarkets is nothing new, but in recent months it has reached such levels that the situation has now been labelled a crisis by farming leaders.

Tensions continue to mount between dairy farmers and certain supermarkets following claims many are now being paid less for their milk than it costs to produce.

The average milk price farmers received in June 2015 was 23.66ppl. This has dropped in the last 12 months by nearly a third. .

Tesco, Sainsburys, the Co-operative, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer all have schemes in place which pay a price consistently above the cost of production for milk. If you have a choice of where to buy your milk you might want to consider going to these supermarkets, over the likes of Morrisons, Aldi, ASDA and Lidl who do not.

However, we can blame the ‘evil’ supermarkets for this problem as much as we like, but it is consumer demand that is the real cause.  Milk now costs less per-litre to buy than bottled water, which seems to be almost farcical. If we want to continue to have safe, clean and sustainable milk, produced in the UK, then we need to start paying a fair price for it.

At one point in time a politician, or celeb, knowing the price of a pint of milk was the litmus test for how ‘in touch’ they were with the everyman. Now it looks like we all live in a society where nobody knows the price of a pint of semi-skimmed.

Support our hard working Dairy farmers!

Norton the saviour of British motorcycle manufacturing

Business...Magazine Feature - Norton Motorcycles, based at Donington Park, Castle Donington... Chief Executive Stuart Garner Reporter - Ian Griffin PICTURE WILL JOHNSTON

Norton – Chief Executive Stuart Garner

Stuart Garner, owner of Norton motorcycles, is fast becoming one of our heroes of UK manufacturing. Not only has be, in recent years, breathed new life into the famous British motorcycle marque but has just announced the creation of a manufacturing academy in Castle Donington.

It is estimated that the academy, which would be built in the grounds of Donington Hall, would create up to 600 full and part-time jobs, as well as create 200 apprentices.

At one time Britain was the preeminent producer of motorcycles in the world. Brands like AJS, BSA, Vincent and Triumph built bikes in the UK and shipped them all over the world. Most of those well known names of British biking have now either been sold off or have sadly disappeared, Triumph perhaps being our only recent success story.

The creation of the British Motorcycle Manufacturing Academy is part of Garner’s dream of producing a motorcycle that is totally British made. Norton state that at the moment, 83% of parts for their bikes are made in this country… which is actually a very impressive figure.

What this academy means for British manufacturing should not be underestimated. It will create employment, bring back long-lost skills and secure UK motorcycle manufacturing well into the future.

Stuart Garner – we salute you! oh… and if I could have a test ride on a Commando that would be great.

– James



Is Britain for sale? The true cost of Foreign ownership to us all

Union Jack sewn quality woven polyester British flag buy price sizeBritain has sold off more than half of its companies to foreigners, but does anyone really care?

When asked to think of a quintessentially British company you might instantly consider Boots the chemist, Jaguar Landrover, Mini, Selfridges, Harrods, The Savoy, Fortnum & Mason, Cadburys, the Dorchester, Debenhams, ASDA, MG Rover, P&O Ports, British Airports Authority, Corus (formally British Steel), British Energy, ICI and lottery operator Camelot. However, each of these businesses, and far too many more to mention, are now in foreign hands.

The long standing argument has been that foreign investment is a good for Britain. Indeed past labour, and conservative, governments have both been keen to erect the for sale signs, rubbing their hands at the windfall of much needed fund this bought into the economy. And indeed it did just that, in the short term.

What has not been considered has been that the vast majority of these companies, once sold, instantly move offshore and exploit every loophole imaginable allowing them to pay negligible, if any, tax. Soon after the takeover of Boots by an Italian conglomerate its headquarters where quickly moved from Nottingham, where it had been based for 161 years, to Switzerland. Before the takeover Boots paid £89 million in British tax each year. That figure has now shrunk to just £9 million. If we now consider that this same scenario might be happening in over half of our registered businesses is it any wonder that Britain is in economical turmoil?

But it does not end there, as of 2012, foreign corporations also controlled 39 per cent of all UK patents. This is far more than the percentage of foreign-owned patents in the U.S. (11.8%), Japan (3.7%) or even the European Union as a whole (13.7%). Meaning that Britain innovation is also being sold abroad with little regard for the future.

Perhaps this is the price we pay for operating in an increasingly globalised world? Well no – Britain is unique in having such a lax attitude to selling off its family silver.

Other countries adopt an ‘economic patriotism’, not seen in the UK, which involves putting obstacles in the path of foreign bids. Take France, for example, which continues to argue that it’s in the national interest to prevent key businesses falling into foreign hands. Like when the U.S. drinks giant PepsiCo made a bid for the French food firm Danone in 2005. In the end, the then President Jacques Chirac declared that the French yoghurt-maker was considered a ‘strategic’ company, so couldn’t be sold to a foreign firm. And then again when, in 2006, the takeover of energy firm Endesa by German owned E.ON was on the cards the Spanish used a similar tactic to block the deal going through. However, just one year later Scottish Power was easily snapped up by  the Spanish investors.

More globally;  India, Japan and the USA all have processes that allow them to block foreign ownership yet we in Britain are happy to sign over our crown jewels to the highest bidder.

So who or what is to blame? Well it seems to be a clear mix of government complacency and shareholder greed are at the heart of what has fuelled the continued downfall of British industry. But the worst thing is that there are no signs of a resolution anywhere on the horizon.

The concern is now that skills have already been lost, iconic brands have been asset stripped and rendered worthless and irreplaceable infrastructure as been sold off. We have had an overarching rule since we started our blog over 3 years ago – to remain optimistic in our reporting. In this case we are going to have to break that rule because we have to admit that, on the face of it, Britain might already be too late to save.

Our thanks to Alex Brummer (author of Britain For Sale: British Companies In Foreign Hands) for inspiring this post.

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