Once again I am infuriated at stories of UK companies selling out to foreign competitors.
On this occasion it is the ongoing story of Rover, which is by all accounts about to sell the controlling share of this UK company to China.
I am aware that businesses have responsibilities to their shareholders. But corporations, government bodies and individuals alike also have a responsibility to the society in which they exist.
Our government talks little about industry, but on the rare occasion it does, we hear of inward investment in the UK. In my experience this all too often means the takeover of an existing UK organisation. Rarely does it mean the creation of something new.
Where an existing UK company is taken over by a foreign parent, the UK part of the global entity is often used as little more than a service operation and is left doing the least important work. Eventually, when technology owned by the UK has been transferred to the foreign parent and/or when a general economic downturn occurs, it is the UK part that is downsized or closed.
In the case of Rover it would seem that the UK manufacturing facility will be closed sooner rather than later, but the very important technology and design side of the operation will remain.
Has it not occurred to government and business leaders that China is fast ramping up its own universities, and that soon they too will have many ambitious and capable technologists and designers? This being so, the future for those here in the UK will be, at best, bleak.
By allowing foreign investors to take over UK companies we not only lose much-needed manufacturing jobs, but also technology and design jobs.
For many years government, business leaders and investors have been telling us that we cannot compete with the lower-wage economies. So do we need manufacturing and can we compete? The answer to both questions is an emphatic yes.
The situation at Rover is a wake-up call. Government needs to promote UK manufacturing here in this country using UK workers. UK companies need to seek out internal investment and develop long-term strategies to keep manufacturing here.
They should also seek ways to dominate world markets, which may include investing in ‘build-to-print’ manufacturing facilities in countries like China, by making products developed in the UK and using UK technology, while retaining control and earning revenues.
Chairman and chief executive