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19-03-2009

Rover

With more than 200,000 people unemployed in Birmingham alone, Barbara Panvel considers the merits of buying homegrown products.

Patrick Shaw worked as an engineer in the car industry over forty years, and lived in Brierley Hill.

Many of us have long felt deeply uneasy about the gradual disappearance of goods made in this country and the widespread loss of skills, but correspondence over five years shows that Patrick has not just whinged, but taken action.

In 2004 he wrote to the Trustee Savings Bank [TSB], to say that it was a disgrace that they were to move their call centres out of Britain even though they were making a multi- million pound profit. The standard reply, “This is a commercial decision...” was torn up in disgust.

Two years earlier he cancelled his insurances with Sun Alliance and Prudential for the same reason and found a company that assured him they are operating only in Britain.

Patrick applauded the stand taken by Kirsty Davies who reigned from Birmingham’s Chamber of Commerce, because they were advocating outsourcing to their members. She said that she was disgusted that the Chamber should condone any move that threatened manufacturing jobs in the region: "It may be old fashioned but I think firms have a moral duty to protect their employees and exporting manufacturing abroad is no way to do that."

He forecast that there would be a heavy price to pay for the British public ignoring our own products after purchasing clothing with a well-known British company’s label to find a smaller label stating that it had been made in Taiwan. His forecast: “At this rate Britain will become a Third World economy”.

“Another failure on behalf of Britain came from BT giving essential telecommunication work away from Marconi, to foreign competition. BT does not deserve our custom. “Even Dyson farmed out his work. I won’t buy any more of his products...

“Since the start of the 1990s apprentice schemes were visibly on the decline and we often commented this could never be good for Britain.”

On the Midland News one night Patrick saw a display of Audi cars in the square outside the Birmingham Council House. He described this as an insult to our car industry and commented that whoever allowed this at a time of a crisis in the City was totally inept.

Similarly years ago when meeting a friend at Birmingham Airport he found a Saab car on display in the foyer, concluding: “They can’t take pride in their own city and promote it...”

The plight of Rover is a recurring theme. Patrick - owner of a Rover 75 - asks: “Are there any British people interested in supporting our own companies? People employed in the Midlands who are remunerated by tax/ratepayers do not even think of buying Rover vehicles or any British based manufactured car...yet receive high salaries.

"I have often seen examples of this ... In recent months my neighbours have had company cars: Renault, Audi, Mazda and before that Volkswagen. If the billions spent of foreign imports were spent on cars built in this country Rover would be able to re-invest on new models and design.

“Do you think that for one minute the patriotic French would let the scenario of Rover happen? No - they would rather break all the EU rules and look after their own country. It is the British public that let Rover down.

“As each day passes, as we expected we hear more of the effect at the loss of Rover. I can only say that Britons attaining the age of forty have little memory of our major industries and think it a freedom to purchase foreign goods without consequence to our country’s economy. I recently spoke to a 30-year-old neighbour re the demise of Rover saying that the British and allies lost their lives in two World Wars - all it seems for nothing. This was greeted with a shrug of shoulders.

“...Simon Hughes was the only politician to stand up for Rover and say, “The demise of Rover is the fault of the British public and no on else.”

“What a different picture it would be today if Rover had been supported by billions and not millions, keeping this large company and its suppliers, with some 18,000 workforce, still producing.

“If we support and rebuild our industries instead of buying imported goods, shutting down our industries and creating a trade deficit now running into billions, there will once more be some hope for the British economy.”

Patrick has agreed to look at the websites of Parry’s People Movers and Localise West Midlands - especially their Green New Deal section - and give his reactions to the proposals for new green technologies.

SHOULD WE BUY BRITISH? AND IS IT POSSIBLE IN THE MODERN ERA?

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