Bamford’s best bits

Posted on 12 Jun 2014 by The Manufacturer

This week Lord Bamford made his maiden speech in the House of Lords, championing the cause of British industry and exhibiting his passion for manufacturing. Here’s the best bits.


Lord Bamford, Chairman, JCB
Lord Bamford, Chairman, JCB

Lord Bamford opened with a brief description of his background and thanks to those who sponsored his peerage.

He described his company’s heritage and the ways in which the industrial and economic environment has changed since he took the helm in 1975.

This description began with the usual litany of statistics showing industrial decline in the UK. Decline in contribution to GDP and employment and its slip into trade deficit in 1984.

But turning to the future Lord Bamford continued:

These are concerning numbers for those of us who want a strong, vibrant, stable and balanced economy.

“But I believe that there is much to celebrate about UK manufacturing. Britain has many world-class manufacturers, making innovative, high-quality and high value-added products.

“We have companies, in other words, that make products that the world wants to buy – small, specialist and world-class businesses, as well as much larger industry leaders, such as Rolls-Royce, GKN, BAE, Jaguar Land Rover and, yes, JCB, which exports 80% of its UK-manufactured products.

“So manufacturing still matters to the British economy. In fact, it matters a great deal.

“Financial services account for just 12% of UK exports; the figure for manufacturing is 46%.”

Lord Bamford acknowledge that ministers in government now acknowledge this contribution from manufacturers and engineers and welcomed their efforts to support a rebalancing of the economy. He called however for continued focus on making that support “far-reaching and substantial”.

Lord Bamford is well known to have storng views of the importance of exports and a global outlook to the success of UK businesses and its economy.

He praised Chancellor George Osborne’s target to double annual exports to a value of £1trn by 2020 and a general assault on the trade deficit.

However Lord Bamford sais that there is still more to do to strengthen the UK’s industrial strategy.

He referenced Germany’s economic development since World War two as a lesson in how to achieve and sustain industrial strength.

“The year 1945 was not just the year of my birth and that of JCB. It was also the year of Germany’s rebirth.

“Today, Germany is the world’s largest net exporter – not China, as you might expect. Is it any wonder that Germany has enjoyed a healthy balance of payments for many years?

“How did they do it? They did it in part by having a coherent, long-term industrial strategy and by focusing on high value-added products. They did it by spending more on R&D than we do – 70% more.

“And they did it by backing their exporters. Over the past 10 years, Germany’s export credit agency backed 10 times as much export business as ours did.”

Lord Bamford went on to explain the contribution of the Mittelstand and value for family ownership in the German industrial model and to praise its high regard for technical education.

At this point Lord Bamford shared his passion for nurturing vocational talent:

“I believe that we have a duty to identify and nurture young talent. That is why, in 2010, we opened the JCB Academy in Staffordshire.

“The academy is now giving five hundred 14 to 19 year-olds a hands-on technical education: 40% of their curriculum is devoted to engineering. They spend half the day in overalls working with state-of-the-art equipment, not just for the benefit of JCB but for British industry as a whole.

“Many of our leavers are now choosing higher apprenticeships as a sensible and practical alternative to university. We are creating real opportunities in industry for our young people.

“In recent years there has been much progress in the field of technical education. We need, however, to do more – much, much more.

“I started my career as an engineering apprentice at Massey Ferguson in France. It was then that it first hit me that behind every product there is an army of talented creators, makers and engineers.

“Somebody somewhere designed, engineered and made these red Benches on which we sit, the lights by which we see each other, the microphones which help us to hear each other and the telephones in our pockets which keep us in touch with each other. We need more such people.”

Lord Bamford concluded this impassioned by emphasizing that, not only do we need more makers, inventors and engineers, but also that “most importantly, we need them to know that they are valued by society as a whole”.

On a personal note he summed up:

As a young man at JCB I came to realise how deeply rewarding it is to turn an idea into something that you can touch, something with form and texture which works and does things, and to use the best of yourself—your energy, know-how and talent – to make things that shape the world in which we live and, yes, even to contribute to human progress.

“Fifty years on, I am as excited by the making of things as I was at the very beginning of my career. I end where I began. It has been, and continues to be, a real privilege to call myself an engineer and a manufacturer and to be heard in this House.”