Bentley Motors: Q&A with the Prime Minister as 1,000 new jobs announced
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Transcript of speech and Q&A with David Cameron at Bentley in Crewe on 23 July 2013.
Prime Minister, Minister, distinguished guests, from all the colleagues at Bentley, a very warm welcome to Crewe. This, as you see, is part of the production facilities that produces some of the finest cars in the world.
As you know, you join us on a fantastic day for us with the announcement of a new SUV. It’s an SUV I know you’ve supported and your government’s supported and has a whole strategy to support the automotive sector, which we fully applaud.
What we’d obviously like to hear from you today is to just answer some questions from colleagues. The colleagues are thrilled to have this decision today, are thrilled to have you here. You are the first serving British prime minister to visit Bentley, so we’re very delighted to be here. So ladies and gentlemen, the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron.
Well, thank you very much. Well, thank you very much for that introduction, and thank you for the welcome. I had no idea that no serving prime minister had come to Bentley before, so I’m glad I’ve put right that historic wrong. And it’s a great day to be here.
Obviously we had that thrilling news last night about the royal baby; very exciting to get the phone call from Buckingham Palace being told that everything was good and everything was fine, and a very exciting day for our country.
So that’s one baby, but today we’re really talking about another baby, another very valuable baby, which is the Bentley SUV. And I think it’s fantastic news for Crewe, fantastic news for Britain, that the Bentley SUV is going to be made here. It means, obviously, hundreds of jobs here in Crewe, but it also means around 1,000 jobs across the country because of the impact of this decision.
So the first thing I want to say to all of you is a very big congratulations, because obviously it’s a big decision for Volkswagen and for Bentley. The government has played its role with helping with Regional Growth Fund and other types of funding, but in the end, it’s a massive vote of confidence in the workforce here in Crewe about your skill, your brilliance, your ingenuity, that we’re going to be making this great car here in Britain. And 70% of the value of the car is going to be added right here in Crewe. So it’s an enormous vote of confidence in you, and I wanted to come here today and congratulate you on that great news.
But what I want to say before answering some questions is that it’s not just about good news for Bentley and Crewe. I think there’s a broader picture now about success in our automotive sector here in the UK. We’re now – last year, for the first time since 1976, we became a net exporter of motor vehicles.
Every 20 seconds in our country, another car is rolling off a production line somewhere in Britain, whether it is here at Bentley, whether it’s Honda, whether it’s Nissan, whether it’s Toyota, whether it’s Ford, whether it’s General Motors; that is taking place in our country. We’re producing almost 2 million cars a year. We’re producing well over 2.5 million engines every year, and we’re also seeing more and more of the supply chain come onshore here in the UK.
So I think the automotive sector is good news for Britain. The government is right behind that. We want to help in every way we can, because we think this is a vital sector for our economy; it’s a sector that adds a lot of value, it’s a sector that’s got a lot of skills, it’s a sector that’s got a lot of technology and of course, it’s a sector that’s got a vast amount of export potential. Here, 80% or more of what you produce is sold overseas, and that is the picture throughout the industry.
And I think it’s very welcome that our automotive industry is so broad. It goes all the way from mass-produced, mass-market vehicles – whether at Toyota, Honda or Nissan, or Ford and General Motors – all the way up not just to Bentley, but of course, 8 of the 11 Formula One teams are right here in the UK. I’ve got Renault Lotus in my constituency; they employ about 450 people and they only produce one car, but it’s a pretty good car, as I’m sure you’d agree. And we’re seeing more investment. Caterham are actually going to be producing their cars in Britain as well, and they’re going to be producing a market car as well.
So I think the industry is in a good place, and we must go on as a country doing everything we can to support that. That means investing in apprenticeships, it means helping with research and development, it means making sure that the tax credit system is working properly for companies like yours, it means getting behind exports and getting behind those sales, and it also means working with our universities to make sure we’re turning out high‑quality engineers for your industry. So we’re committed to doing everything we can to make that work.
And the reason it matters goes to a broader picture about our economy. Because I think our economy is healing, it is mending, it is getting stronger, but, frankly, we need this rebalancing, this strengthening of the economy, to go further and faster. It’s really important that we’re not so reliant on financial services or we’re not so reliant on the South East of England. We need to have a broader economy. We need to – put it frankly – make more things, design more things, have more technology, and sell more things overseas: all things that the automotive industry does.
Now, we’re beginning to see that happen. We’re seeing a growth in private sector jobs, something like 1.3 million more people employed in the private sector since 2010. We’re seeing one of the fastest rates of new business creation in our country, as people are setting up new businesses. That’s good news. And we’re seeing a growth in exports.
But we need that to go further and faster, and that is absolutely what this government is going to be about: getting behind business, getting behind industry and getting behind enterprise; saying to people, ‘When you look for that first apprenticeship, when you look for that first job, when you try and set up that first business, when you try and take on more people, we are behind you every step of the way. We want to make it easier for you rather than more difficult’.
As I say, I think we’re strengthening. I think things are getting better. But we have got to work at it very, very hard. But it’s great to come and share the good news with you today about this other great baby, many thousands of which we hope you produce – the Bentley SUV – right here in Crewe.
So, questions and answers. Who wants to kick off? Feel free to ask about anything. It doesn’t have to be car-related; it can be anything-related.
Prime Minister, firstly, thank you for coming to Crewe to see our great company and our great products, of which we’re all very proud. But I have a slightly alternative question. The investment in HS2 represents a huge government investment over the next few years. What will that bring to this region and to companies like ours?
I think it will bring a big benefit to a region like the North West, and I think it will bring a big benefit to our country for this reason. I think if we want to be in the front rank of countries, if we want to be a winner in what I call the global race, then we’ve got to have a really fast and efficient transport infrastructure. And I think when you look at what really makes a difference to the economic geography of a country it’s those big decisions to build the big motorway, to build the high-speed line, as we did through the Channel Tunnel. It’s those decisions that can make a real difference to your country.
Now, we face a choice as a nation. Our capacity on the West Coast Main Line is filling up. We need to build another West Coast Main Line, and we’ve basically got a choice: do we build another conventional one, or do we do, as many other countries are doing in the world, do we build a high-speed one and connect up our cities much, much faster?
We’ve taken the decision to go for the high-speed route, and I think what that means is over time, when we build London to Birmingham, then Birmingham up to Manchester and Leeds, it will shrink our country in terms of time, it will add masses of capacity to our other railways and enable lots more direct connections, whether it’s, you know, Blackpool-London and Shrewsbury‑London, that can make a big difference. So I think it will be a big enhancement to our economy. Other countries in the world are joining the high-speed revolution. We’re a little bit behind, so I think it’s right we catch up.
For Crewe, obviously there is already a plan to be a station south of Crewe, and I know that your local MP Edward Timpson is absolutely engaged in this issue in trying to work out, how can we get the best benefit for Crewe from HS2? But I think it’s essential if we’re going to be a success story to shrink our country in terms of time, to add to transport capacity, and that’s what HS2’s all about.
Good morning. Currently my wife and I are adopting our second child through the fostering to adopt initiative. My wife took unpaid leave through fostering. Unfortunately, she’s been told that she’s not entitled for adoption pay because she took unpaid leave through fostering. Will you review this strategy, because it doesn’t align with the current strategy?
Right, very good question. I mean, first of all, can I congratulate you on successfully adopting your second child? And also, I’m really pleased to hear that one part of your experience is working, which is the idea that you can foster and apply for adoption at the same time. This is something that, you know, if you stand back and look at the big picture, we need to make sure that more children get adopted more quickly in our country. We shouldn’t leave children languishing in the care system when we should be trying to find them loving homes like yours. So that’s good news: that the fostering and adoption is going together.
The bit I don’t know the answer to – and sometimes I have to be honest about this – is what’s happened to your adoption pay, but I have got an answer for you, which is your local MP is not just a hardworking MP for Crewe and Nantwich, he is also the minister I put in charge of the adoption system. So he’s going to come up to you straight after this meeting and…
Edward was actually brought up in a house where his parents fostered how many children?
87 children. So he knows something about this very important subject. And it’s a national scandal how many children we leave in the care system, and we have to be frank: the state isn’t a very good parent. The outcomes for those children in the care system is not good. So much better to get them into adoptive homes. And Edward will sort out your problem for you, I hope.
Good morning. Being a victim of crime three times personally, I’ve become very disillusioned with the justice system in that the perpetrators have been given very lenient sentences.
Secondly to that is the kind of whole perception of jail not being kind of something people would fear to go to; it’s more of a holiday camp with, you know, games, pool tables, Sky TV. I really feel it should be, you know, overhauled completely, and it just doesn’t seem to be happening quick enough.
Very fair point. I mean, first of all, I’m very sorry that you’ve been a victim of crime. But the overall picture is that crime has fallen. I know people are very sceptical about that, and they say, ‘Come on, has it really fallen?’ Well, we measure crime in 2 different ways. We measure it in the crimes that people report to the police, recorded crime. That’s fallen. And we also – because some people say, ‘Well, people don’t report crimes to the police’ – we have this massive thing called the British Crime Survey. And according to that, crime has fallen as well. So on both measures it’s going down; so there are fewer victims. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to do more for those people who are victims of crime.
Now, one of the changes we’ve made is to allow victims to make a statement in court. But I’m looking at whether we can take that further and really enlarge the voice of the victim in the courtroom. Because I think sometimes you can feel as a victim that the suspect is surrounded by barristers and helpers and all the rest of it, but the victim isn’t getting a big enough part in the trial process. We want to change that.
I actually picked a local woman, Helen Newlove, who was the victim of the most ghastly crime when she watched her husband being battered to death on her doorstep. She has campaigned for victims’ rights. She comes from Warrington, not a million miles away from here. I put her in the House of Lords, and recently, she on her own merits became the Victims’ Commissioner, the person responsible in the whole country for standing up for victims. And she’s going through all the elements of the court process and the police process to try and make it better.
Now, let me come on to prison. I agree with you on one part, not so sure about the other part. Having been to quite a number of prisons in Britain – purely in a professional capacity, let me add – I wouldn’t describe any of them as holiday camps. There are prisons I’ve been to certainly where, you know, you think, ‘I’m pretty glad I’m not here.’ And we need to make sure that prisons are what a former Home Secretary once described as decent but austere. That is how they should be, and that is by and large how they are.
Where I think you’re right is we do need to make sure that things like television in prison – this should be an earned right, that you should get it if you behave well, if you keep your nose clean; you should not have automatic access to Sky TV. And Chris Grayling has changed the rules on this so that prisoners have to earn their privileges.
And as well as earning their privileges, in my view, they should be earning while they’re in prison by working, and the money they earn principally should go to the victims of crime who they’ve done harm to. Putting in place that sort of system would work.
But let’s be frank, prison isn’t the answer to all the problems. One of the things that strikes you when you go to these prisons is 50%/60% of the people there can’t read, can’t write; they have no prospect of getting work when they get out. So we’ve got to get into those prisons, teach them to read and write, teach them some skills, and therefore give people a chance of actually going straight when they get out. And in that way, we’ll have fewer victims like yourself.
The UK’s getting back on its feet with the economy and stuff like that. Why do we seem to have a weak policy on immigration when it’s a constant drain? All the people here work hard, and why do we let people in that are a constant drain?
Look, I basically agree with you. There are some benefits from being a country that can welcome people who want to come here and work hard, but I think over the last decade we’ve had an immigration policy that’s been completely lax. I mean the figures are actually quite frightening. If you look at the period between the year 2000, the year 2010, we basically were having net migration into the UK – that’s the difference between the number of people going to live in Spain or somewhere else and the number coming in – net migration of 200,000 a year.
So, across that decade, that is 2 million extra people coming to our country. Now I think that is more than we are able to absorb. I think the pressure that puts on public services is too great. I think the pressure it puts on some of our communities was too great. It wasn’t properly controlled. So what my government has done, coming in in 2010, is go through every sort of immigration and try to make sure we are only going to have people who come here who bring a real benefit.
So, first of all, we said, ‘Right, immigration from outside the European Union, we should put a cap on it.’ People coming here who are economic migrants, we should cap. So we’ve done that. That was an important step.
The next thing we looked as was students. Now, of course, it’s great that people want to come and study here in the UK. We should welcome that. We’ve got great universities, great colleges. If they can earn extra money to put into our economy by welcoming students, good. But what we’ve found is that wasn’t what was happening. Hundreds of thousands of people were coming to Britain to come to colleges that weren’t really colleges at all. They just wanted the visa so they could work.
And we’ve shut down something like 130 bogus colleges, and so those people aren’t coming anymore. We actually have a very good offer to say to people from India or China or elsewhere: if you can speak English and you’ve got a place at a British university, you can come and study. But the bogus colleges, the people coming pretending to be students, that has been taken out.
We’ve still got more to do. The number of that net migration figure, that 200,000, we’ve got it down by over a third, but I want to see it come down faster. And we are going to keep taking all the actions necessary so that we make sure that’s the case.
We still have a problem, though, as you say. There are lots of people who come here to work hard; there are some people who come here and they are not planning to work hard, they are planning to take advantage of the system. So as Prime Minister, I’ve said to the government, ‘Look, this is not just an issue for the Home Office, this is not just for the Immigration Minister; we can’t put all the weight on him’.
We’ve got to make sure that the housing system, that we are not handing over houses to people who don’t have a right to be here; that the health system, we are not giving health treatments to people who don’t have the right to be here; that we’re not giving legal aid to people that don’t have the right to be here.
So this government has an immigration policy that is for every single department to act – on housing, on health, on education, on legal aid – so that we are no longer a soft touch. We are doing that, we’ve got a big immigration bill going through parliament and I’m confident that by the end of this government, you’ll be able to look back and say, ‘There may not have sorted out the whole problem, but they’ve got a much tougher approach on immigration that’s fair and that backs people who want to work hard and get on’.
Mr Prime Minister, what’s the government doing to strengthen trade relations with emerging economies?
Very big – very important issue because, as I was talking to your overall boss, Professor Winterkorn, today, the European economies are not looking great right, you know. The economy is shrinking in Italy, in Spain, in Portugal. And there are fast growing economies out there, but there’re in Malaysia, Indonesia, some of the Gulf countries, South America. And so we’ve got to step up to the plate. Yes, we are a big European power. Yes, we are always going to have good trade relations inside the European Union, but we’ve got to do far more with the emerging powers.
Now, the first thing I’ve done is I’ve taken, personally, trade missions to all of the fastest growing and biggest economies of the world. If you take the G20 – the top 20 economies – I’ve taken a trade mission to every single one, apart from Argentina. Haven’t quite made that one yet, not quite sure why, but maybe I will bite the bullet and do it. But Brazil, China, Indonesia, Russia, and we’re seeing our exports, you know, over 100% up to Russia, 60% up to China, I think 50% up to India; we are making good progress.
But I think there are some other things that we’ve got to do. We’ve got to get the small and medium-sized industries exporting. So, an amazing figure this: 1 in 5 of our SMEs export, if we could make that 1 in 4 we would wipe out our trade deficit overnight. So that’s a big thing we need to do.
I think we also need to help, not just small companies, but also bigger companies with export credits, export insurance – a market that really suffered when the banking collapse happened; a lot of that trade insurance dried up. Now, we put some effort and some money into it, but I don’t think we’ve quite got it right yet in terms of coming up with the products that will help you sell overseas. So I think that can make a big difference.
I think the other thing we need to do is make sure that as well as selling overseas, we make the UK the number one destination for inward investment. You know, people, they’re not going to come here for the weather, even after the last week, but they will come here if we can demonstrate we’ve got low and competitive tax rates, we’ve got a well-trained workforce, we’re not overregulating and we’re welcoming to Business and Industry.
And the good news is in the last couple of years inward investment to the UK has been going up, whereas actually inward investment to the rest of the EU has been going down. So, we’re on the right track, and a lot of those investments, a bit like Volkswagen’s investment here today into Bentley, that is an investment into the UK, but it’s going to result in a lot more exports to some of the fastest growing markets in the world.
Prime Minister, you mentioned Europe, and obviously that’s our biggest trading partner. However, the policy seems to be to withdraw further from Europe. Can you explain what the strategy is?
Absolutely, let me explain. I want for Britain, you know, what is best for our economy, what’s best for our country. And you’re right: about half our exports go to the European Union. This is a vital market for us, but I think we’d be wrong if we just said to ourselves, ‘Well, as a result, let’s just accept everything as it is.’
Because the truth about the European Union today: it’s not flexible enough, it’s not competitive enough, it’s adding too much to our costs, it’s actually holding back, sometimes, British businesses and the British economy. And the European Union as we look at it today is not exactly a great example of growth and competitiveness.
So, we need change. Now, some people say, ‘We’ll just have a referendum right now. Let people choose: do you want to stay in this thing, or do you want to leave this thing?’ I think that would be a mistake, because it’s not the choice we ought to be offering the people. Because, actually, lots of people like me, and I suspect the majority of people in the country, don’t want a choice about do we leave or stay in this current European Union; they’d like a choice about, ‘Well, can you reform this thing first before you give me a choice about whether to stay or go?’
So, my strategy is very, very simple, which is to say there will be a referendum by the end of 2017 where the British people will be able to make the choice. And between now and 2017, I am going to negotiate a better deal for Britain. I hope it’ll be a better deal for everyone in Europe; there are some things we need to change for all European countries. This organisation should be more competitive, flexible, open. It’s got to think about how it’s going to compete with China and America rather than just endlessly adding burdens to everybody. But I’m going to make this negotiation and then we have the referendum.
Now, why do I think that I’ve got a chance of success in renegotiating? For this very simple reason: Europe is changing and Europe needs to change. It’s 28 countries, 18 of which have the same currency – the euro – the other 10 of which, like us, don’t. And frankly, I don’t think we’re ever going to have the euro. I don’t think we should have the euro; I think we’re perfectly better off with the pound sterling. And it’s obvious to me that the countries in the eurozone, they need change. They’ve got to get more integrated, they’ve got to have more of a banking union, they’ve got to have more of a tax and spending union. It’s not working, what they’ve got right now.
So, I’m saying to them, ‘You need to sort your stuff out, and we’ll allow you to do that because you need to.’ But at the same time, those countries like Britain where, frankly, consent for the European Union is wafer thin – we need changes, too. So, we’ll give you your changes if you give us our changes.
I believe I can negotiate that. I think the reaction from the Germans, the Italians, the Swedes, the Dutch and some others to the proposals I’ve made – where they haven’t said, ‘You can’t do that; you can’t have change,’ they’ve said, ‘Okay, let’s talk about change. Let’s talk about what you want to change.’ So, I believe we can achieve a better settlement for Britain in Europe. We then put that to the people in a referendum in 2017, and I think we then will have settled this issue for a generation. And I think that’ll be a really good step for Britain.
Now, some people will say, ‘Well, there’s a bit of uncertainty between now and 2017. Isn’t that damaging for business?’ Well, just today a German company has made a big investment into a British business right here. I don’t think it does create uncertainty; I think greater uncertainty would be to put your head in the sand and pretend there isn’t a problem with Europe. There is a problem, and I want to fix it.
Prime Minister, as a British citizen born and brought up in Britain, I feel like I would like a say in the break-up potentially of the Union and the independence of Scotland. I’m interested in your views.
Well, again, this is a bit like the previous question. Just as I think we need to sort out the relationship between Britain and Europe – and my view is clear, we’d be better off in a reformed European Union – I also think we have to sort out our own family of nations, the United Kingdom.
Now, I in a way regret this, but one of the countries of the United Kingdom – Scotland – voted for a Scottish National Party government, and their policy is to leave the United Kingdom. And we’re a family. I want the family to stay together. I think the family would be much better off together. Not just Scotland better off in the United Kingdom, but I think the rest of the United Kingdom would be better off with Scotland staying.
But as I said, you can’t keep a family member in a family against their will. So I think the right thing to do is what I’ve done, which is, you say to the Scots: if you want to have a referendum, I’ll make sure you can have a fair, legal and decisive referendum. I said to Alex Salmond: you can have the referendum; it’s got to be one question: do you want to stay in the United Kingdom or do you want to go? And they’re going to have that referendum in 2014, so only now a little bit of time to go.
And, before that referendum, there’s going to be a debate. It’s taking place now. And those of us who passionately believe Scotland’s better off in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom’s better off together, I think, so far, we’re winning the argument. It doesn’t mean the argument’s won. There’s a long way to go before the vote is made.
But I think people can see – not just in Scotland, but throughout the United Kingdom – we’re more prosperous together with our economies linked together rather than putting up trade barriers between us; I think that we’re safer together with our armed forces working together – one United Kingdom armed forces. We’re stronger in the world together: we have a seat on the UN Security Council; we’re leading members of the EU, NATO, Commonwealth, G8, G20, all the organisations you want to be in if you want to be a front rank country. So, safer, more prosperous, better off together.
And here, though, is the crucial part that we’ve got to win the argument. We’ve got to convince people that you can be both Scottish and British, and indeed, you can be even more proud of your Scottishness than you are of your Britishness, and still want to be in the United Kingdom.
And I think if we win these arguments, both of the head and of the heart, we’ll keep our family together. And how much stronger will our family be if we vote to stay together, rather than, again, if we sort of put our head in the sand and say, ‘I’m not listening to what the Scottish people want.’ I think people in Scotland want this referendum. They’re going to have this referendum. And I hope that they’ll make a choice of keeping us together.
So I know your government’s already done quite a lot to increase the number of apprenticeships to record values, but what is your future strategy for increasing this?
Future strategy for apprentices. Well, I think we should take a bit of a leaf out of the German book, as we’re here in a German-owned business. I think it’s really good that we’ve got – I think, a million people have started an apprenticeship since this government came to office. I think that’s good news. I think the quality of apprenticeships is looking good in our country. I think government’s investing in them, businesses are investing in them.
I think the next steps – I’ve got 2. First is, we’ve got to get more small and medium sized companies to take on apprentices. We’ve got to make it simpler. We pay a simple bounty payment now to companies when they haven’t done it before, and that’s worthwhile.
But the second thing we’ve got to do – and this is taking a leaf, I think, out of the German book – is, we need to see more higher level apprenticeships, more apprenticeships which are the absolute equivalent, possibly even better than a degree. Now, we’ve invested in these, but it’s still in the thousands and tens of thousands, and we want to boost that massively.
The final thing, which is the point you made to me as we were walking down the production line, we’ve got to get better at explaining to young people what the options are. I don’t blame teachers for this, in a way, because almost all teachers have taken the same path. They went to school, they did their A‑levels, they went to university, and they know that pathway and they know how to advise about that pathway.
We’ve got to get smarter about getting businesses and careers advisors into schools and saying, ‘Look, there is another path. You can leave school at 18 and do an apprenticeship. You can then go on studying and get your degree. You can earn and learn and end up on the board of a great company or running a great company’. And I don’t think we get that message across quite in the same way that the Germans have managed to do in their country.
So I’m sure there are some things we can teach the Germans – obviously football, you know, perhaps a little bit of cricket with the recent successes. But this is somewhere where I think there’s a lot to learn from the German model.
And on that happy Anglo-German note, can I thank you all again for the warm welcome, can I congratulate you on the investment that’s made today. It’s your success because this is your business, it’s your hard work, your ingenuity, and you deserve a round of applause. Thank you very much.