Wednesday 6 July 2011


“British Jobs for British Workers” cried Iain Duncan Smith at a recent gathering in Spain, echoing Brown’s flat footed attempt to encourage employers to recruit British workers instead of Poles, Lithuanians or Filipinos (supposing they can find any that are prepared to work under the conditions on offer).

But days later about half the workers at Bombardier, the last train-making factory in Britain (but owned by Canadians), are being made redundant, because the British government has awarded the contract for Thameslink trains to the German company, Siemens. British jobs for German workers?
This is a strange action for a government, the stated aims of which are to create a manufacturing sector renaissance in the country; a government professing a pro-industry agenda.

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, was amusing in his interview with Evan Davis on the Today programme. It was, he said, all the fault of the Labour Government who set up the bidding process. We should look to the Continent of Europe, he continued, and copy the way the French and the Germans do business. French companies build French trains; German companies build German trains. So, within the constraints of the free market, of which he professed himself to be a staunch advocate, he wanted the government to "look more strategically" at how it can support domestic manufacturers by awarding contracts. British jobs for Canadian workers?
Hammond somewhat unwisely went on to scorn the fact that the last government had called the project “Thameslink 2000”, and that we were in 2011... Dangerous, I thought, given the anticipated forthcoming travails, and delays, concerning the high speed link between London and Birmingham!

The Bombardier plant at Derby employs 3,000 people, but its future is now in serious doubt. Its contracts to produce trains for National Express East Anglia, London Midland, and London Underground's Victoria line are due to be complete by September, leaving the Derby plant with only one contract to produce trains for the London Underground. It is doubtful that this will be enough to sustain the company’s plant in England.

I do agree that we should look at creating jobs in the domestic market. I personally try to buy Scottish made goods whenever I can. But we also need to look at the cost, the quality and the reliability of what we buy. I think it unlikely that I will ever use a Thameslink train myself, but I’m pretty sure that the people who do will be looking for as reliable a service as possible.

PS: If you were wondering about the Michael Fox reference in the title, I was just pondering what it is with politicians like Hammond (as he did in his "Today" interview) that they feel compelled to use the buzz expression “going forward” and then add “in the future”? I mean, you really can’t go forward in the past!


  1. You just can’t believe a word that these people say. Is it not true that the Scottish Parliament building was projected to cost £40 million and actually cost £400 million, and that this was mainly because the contracting party i.e. the Government, kept changing the goal posts of the contract and adding bits here and there? And is it not much the same excuse for the escalating costs of the Edinburgh tram project? So if we were not locked into that contact no matter what how ridiculous would it be for the UK government to tie itself into a contract it could not change or get out of under any circumstances? Things change and flexibility is usually built in with a contingency amount for such changes so Mr Hammond’s excuse is just so much tosh.

  2. I agree Munguin. I know that MPs and councillors can be pretty thick, and officials somewhat blinded to the realities of modern business, but surely there was some flexibility built in. (I don't mention MSPs because the Scottish parliament was built by the UK government and the Great Helmsman oversaw the fiasco that was its building... and the trams are the responsibility of the Edinburgh council.)

    Over at Lobbydog, you will see that a Tory MP agrees with you. Hammond could...should ...have done more. But he looks and sounds a bit of a wet rag.

    I can't wait to see HIS great project go belly up as Tory MPs, with rich constituents in the area between London and Birmingham kick off about the high speed trains whizzing past the bottom of their garden every 5 minutes...

  3. LOL OR... Indeed they do.

    And what greater minds than ours?

    I'll go look!

  4. Go look at Old Rightie's garden video....

    It's superb.

  5. Ahem! An article of mine appeared in today's DERBY TELEGRAPH on this subject. The link is extremely long, so I hope I type it right. It concerns inter alia ministers' obligations under the Privy Council Oath. So it may sound a bit flowery and royal. Although I stayed within my word limit, the editor amputated my last paragraph which read
    "When Britain was a republic under the Parliament, members of the Council of State swore a similar oath. So this is not a Roundheads versus Cavaliers issue, rather a matter of the people's Resistance to the EU Collaborators in the political class". Here is the link

  6. Very impressive Mr Spalton. Congratulations on being published (on an even more important organ than Munguin's Republic too! :)

    I think that if British factories, even of Canadian firms, can supply a product as good, and at a price that is relatively competitive they should be allowed to do so.

    (If only because transportation of materials clogs roads and creates horrific fumes.)

    I have no idea of the figures, but if the deal was that the cheapest bid had to be accepted, perhaps they could have taken into consideration that the Siemens bid would also cost the UK government redundancy money and Jobseeker's Allowance, rent rebates, rate rebates, and all the other costs that come with unemployment.

    That might have put a different gloss on the figures.

    I note that we buy quite a considerable amount of stuff from our senior partner too. And of course we buy almost all our domestic product from China.

    That pathetic Transport Secretary (who has all his money invested in the British Virgin Islands [allegedly] so he's fond of "foreign things") was right when he said that other countries get round the rules of the single market, but then other countries probably have clever Civil Servants. And other countries may even have ministers that aren't complete fools.

    I love the bit in the privy council club rules about the 'Queen's Majesty'. It's a bit over the top, but I don't really mind it too much. However, but imagine it referring to Chic? Every time I think of him being majestic, I am reminded of his sordid "Camillagate" telephone call... doubtless another of Rupert Murdoch's devices!

    Now that was truly majestic... not!

    Congratulations again on a beautifully written article.

  7. The contract bidding is subject to EU rules so there's nothing the UK govt can do about it.
    Of course France and Germany etc just ignore the EU regs and protect their industries.

  8. Tris.

    Bombardier said even if they had won the contract hundreds of staff would had still been paid off! Still a lot of job losses but nothing compared to the 1,500 including suppliers etc who will be out of a job over this stupid decision to give the contract to Germany.

    Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and 3rd in the world, think it's about time BMW's were built in Iceland! Could you see the German reaction?

  9. Kipper: There are ways to do things; ways to wording the tendering process, according to the London government, which Labour failed to do.

    The Tories being smarter would of course have done it they have done everything right.

    One thing British governments love is to be able to put the blame on someone else for their incompetence. You usually get "the last lot" for the first few years, then you get "the EU" and in cases of extreme desperation (like the collapse of the City a few years ago) "it all started in the USA.

  10. It's worse than I thought Tris. The govt could have actually ignored EU rules on this occasion and are using the EU as an excuse. Labour are being hypocrites as they gave a £7Bn order for trains to Hitachi of Japan last year. Found this comment in the local paper in Derby..

    “There seems to be some confusion about EU procurement rules (even among politicians!).

    They are largely procedural; the rules say what must be done, when, where, timescales, etc. However, tender evaluation criteria is the responsibility of whoever is carrying out the procurement exercise.

    In this instance, the evaluation criteria was established by the last government. But at any time since the last election Philip Hammond could have changed the criteria; that is a fact.

    How do I know that? Because it says so in the invitation to tender (which is archived on the Department for Transport's website).

    For Hammond, Vince Cable, and the Prime Minister to say that "it's not our fault - blame the last government" is outrageous; I guess it just shows the contempt with which they treat us, the electorate.

    For those not familiar with EU procurement rules, there are two types; one is for use by government/government departments/etc, and the other for utilities (which include railways). The government has made great play on the fact that they have undertaken this exercise, have selected the preferred bidder, have done the best job for British taxpayers, etc., and therefore I would expect this exercise to have been carried out in accordance with the rules applicable to governments; but this is not the case. The Department for Transport has used the utility rules; I believe this is wrong.

    Is there a case, therefore, for a Judicial Review of this exercise?

    Moreover, did the Department of Transport recently select Hitachi in preference to Bombardier for another major contract using the same rules? And if it is in order for government departments to use the utility rules in certain circumstances, why did they even consider Hitachi at the expense of British manufacturers when they are not under any obligation so to do?

    So, in summary, EU procurement rules are not to blame for the contract being awarded to Siemens in preference to Bombardier; moreover, the responsibility for this decision rests squarely with the present government, even though the exercise was started by the previous government, for they could have changed the evaluation criteria at any time since May, 2010.

    Finally, even though a tendering exercise has been carried out, the government were not under any obligation to award a contract for the Thameslink trains at this time; that's also in the invitation to tender. If Hammond was unhappy with the tendering exercise, he could have cancelled it and started again; he has claimed this would have delayed the project by five years, but as the organisation which some describe has highly inefficient - British Rail - managed to procure trains in months, how realistic is his claim?”

    source :

  11. Allan: Yes, I read that, but as you say the situation is far worse because of this decision.

    I love the thought of BMWs being made in Iceland though...he he he!

  12. Thanks Kipper.

    Pretty much what I though (although not all the detail of course). And pretty much what Munguin said. Hammond didn't have to do this. He has done it and happily placed the blame for it on the EU (whose fault it is not) and the previous government, ditto.

    But of course, Labour are just as bad. While shouting out for British Jobs for British Workers (!!), they were giving British Jobs to Japan!

    Thanks for supplying that information. I feel somewhat vindicated!!

  13. you are right... you can also find latest Fresher jobs alerts online.