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London needs manufacture


On Monday 17 November, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry held an important meeting on “The Future of Manufacturing in London”. About 90 people attended, including members of the Greater London Assembly, local businessmen and representatives of Unite, UCU and the South-East Region of the TUC.

The keynote speaker was Alan Duncan MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise. He pointed out that the economic model of recent years was broken, so Britain was one of those economies least able to cope with the economic downturn.

He decried “the deeply irresponsible practices of our banks” and deplored our being so “heavily dependent” on finance capital. He said that we needed to get “back to an economy that is genuinely constructive” and “manufacturing needs to be at the centre”.

Will Butler-Adams, the MD of Brompton Bicycle Ltd, based in Brentford in West London, stated that his firm had grown by 25 per cent last year and was on course to achieve the same rate this year. He observed that his firm did not compete on costs, but succeeded by adding value through making innovation and design central to the manufacturing process.

The Brompton bicycle consists of some 1,200 parts, over three-quarters of which are unique and are designed in-house. The firm also designs and builds the machines and tools needed to make these parts, including over 500 purpose-made press tools, moulds, braze jigs and assembly fixtures. The firm continually refines its manufacturing methods and invests in new machinery and equipment every year.

The union representatives pointed out that Britain had for 40 years lived an economic fantasy of relying on finance rather than industry. The government has thrown billions of our money at the banks, with no guarantee that any of it will go to industry. Now we need to boost demand and invest in industry, services and infrastructure projects.

Those attending the meeting agreed to do all they could to ensure that manufacturing in London does have a future.