David Cameron talks about McLaren

Thank you, Ron, for those very important words, and thank you for everything you’re doing here at McLaren. It is incredibly inspiring.

I can tell you, I’ve been to a few factories. I’ve been to a few car manufacturing plants in my time. I’ve never been to anything quite like this – it really is inspiring what you do. And I can tell you about those £50 notes that Ron spoke about as well. The good news is that the Governor of the Bank of England very kindly sent me the third off the production line. I think the Queen got the first one, the Duke of Edinburgh got the second, I got number three. I know the Chancellor wants me to spend it, but I think I’m going to keep hold of it…

But thank you for what you said and thank you for your hospitality today.

What Ron said is incredibly important, because we all want this to be a country where we’re respected once again for what we make as well as the services and finance we provide – vital though they are. And there are people out there who say that can’t happen because the base has gone – the skills aren’t there; Britain doesn’t make enough things any more upon which to build. And so they conclude that our glory days of science, engineering and manufacturing are behind us, and that from now on it’s going to be about buying from the world rather than selling to the world.

What McLaren does here in Woking is a powerful rebuke to that view.

And one of the things that has so impressed me today is it’s not just about the extraordinary Formula 1 cars that you make or, indeed, the incredible new cars we’ve just been looking at, it’s the technology, it’s the invention, its the patents, it’s all of that innovation that is going to lead to so many other great businesses in the future.

Yes, McLaren are building some of the most advanced desirable sports cars for the consumer market; yes, they are breaking that ground in the electronic systems and software that Ron just spoke about, and they are engineering the most complex machines for Formula 1. So I want to concentrate on why I admire what McLaren are doing, why it matters to our economy and why the Government should back up the call that McLaren have given .

First of all I do admire what you do here at McLaren. There is something that doesn’t get said often enough which is that Formula 1 is an incredible British success story: every time Lewis or Jenson blast away from the starting grid they are doing so in cars built right here in Britain. Perhaps this is a point I’ll make to Chancellor Merkel when I see her tomorrow, who knows? Something to break the ice!

Ron made the point that it doesn’t get any more high-end than this: tens of thousands of components; aerodynamics that defy belief; new part for the car designed every 20 minutes across the season. That’s how fast the innovation is.

It’s engineering so groundbreaking that when space scientists are looking for ideas they come to the brains of Formula 1. You remember Beagle 2? It was cased in a lightweight plastic first developed for Formula 1 exhaust systems. Formula 1 technology is everywhere: dining tables, even in the soles of our wellington boots – and it’s not just the materials being adapted. Great Ormond Street saw how efficiently car wheels were changed in the pits so they worked with Formula 1 experts to streamline the transfer of patients into intensive care.

As I say what you do here has so many applications. So I think we can be proud that British engineering is not just dominating Formula 1, but actually changing the world – and I think we should be proud too of what is happening in the wider car and automotive industry.

Obviously we’ve just seen this state-of-the-art production centre where, in the coming year, hundreds of gleaming MP4 12Cs are going to roll off this extraordinary production line but actually this is the high end of what’s happening more broadly in the British car industry.

Nissan are choosing design and make the next generation Qashqai here in the UK. That will be followed by the electric Leaf. Honda is confirming the Civic and the CRV to be reproduced in the UK and they are bringing on masses of their component manufacture here. In the UK, too, BMW is investing more than £500m. Then the great success story of Jaguar Land Rover; just last week they announced another thousand jobs in Solihull so the sector is actually going from strength to strength.

Why does all this matter? The obvious answer is wealth and jobs are being created. As I said when I came to office, it’s not just the size of the economy that matters, it’s the shape: less debt, less dependence on finance and housing booms.

In 2002, car demand in China was for 1 million units. Less than a decade later, it’s 14 million units. And when you look at how many people are joining the middle class every year in China that figure is only going to go up and go up exponentially, so there is so much wealth to be tapped into; there is more opportunity for high skilled jobs so people can learn a trade and have fulfilling careers. The new dynamic we want to build up must be one that lifts people up.

Now, the people who are going to get us here are the ones I met today over at the new McLaren Production Centre. But they also need a government that backs manufacturing and that is what we’re doing: we’re investing in science – we have not cut the science budget; we’ve had to cut many budgets, but that budget has been protected – so we’ve created technology and innovation centres to get ideas into production.

Bentley, Pirelli tyres, Lotus cars, JCB – they are all into manufacturing. This morning we launched the Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering, it is a million pound competition to drive up the esteem of engineering and I hope it will have the same effect in raising the profile of engineering and the profile of Britain as the Nobel peace price does for Norway.

I think it’s a major new effort and I’m delighted the Queen has put her name to it. This morning I met people here as start of the See Inside manufacturing campaign and it really does get people thinking about the future. Today we have a new announcement about apprenticeships that I want to share with you.

As you already know, around 360,000 apprenticeships start every year – although actually in the past year we did over 440,000 – but this isn’t really a numbers game – we want apprenticeships to be meaningful and work better for business. That is why we are trying out a radical new approach to funding them in the new year: 50 million in the first year and as much as 200 million in the year after that.

This will put the money for training directly into employers’ hands. I think this is vitally important, lots of employers say to me: I want to do apprenticeships but there’s too much bureaucracy. We’re basically saying the money is there, establish your own schemes and we will fund you. We think this is a really radical move, it’s about putting business in the driving seat it will make it much more attractive for you to take apprentices on and it will help ultimately to rebalance our economy.

Let me finish by saying this. This is a tough time for Europe, this is a tough time for our economy – and I don’t for one second under-estimate the difficulties ahead of us, but, at the same time we have to be alive to the hope that is out there.

I’ve spoken about the growing strength of our car industry, the genius of our engineers – all those things today – and it’s visits to places like this that make me optimistic about the future – even in the difficult times we race this country has the talent, the ideas, the expertise to create and to sell more to the rest of the world, it has a government that is determined to capitalise on the opportunities out there, determined to invest in entrepreneurship and in success.

So what I want to say to you today is I am confident with all the difficulties we face. We can ride out the storm that is taking place in Europe and, over time, we can come through it in a way that is much stronger: showing the world that Britain is back making things and back open for business.

Thank you very much indeed for listening.

32 thoughts on “David Cameron talks about McLaren

  1. I’m sure we’ve all been saying this for years: “There is something that doesn’t get said often enough which is that Formula 1 is an incredible British success story: every time Lewis or Jenson blast away from the starting grid they are doing so in cars built right here in Britain.”
    and not to mention most of the rest of the grid too and the other formulae !

  2. It’s mind boggling to see what Ron Dennis has done with his life.

    I’m currently reading Steve Jobs’ biography and I see similarities between the two of them. They both have this passion for great engineering married to an impeccable presentation (not to mention a prickly personality 😉

    Thanks for the coverage, Joe.

  3. sure david , pretty words

    those of you who don’t live in the UK will probably not be aware that certain sporting events are protected by law , ie they have to be available for all to watch without cost on UK TV , don’t remember exactly what but including wimbledon tennis [ we don’t have tennis players ] some cricket and football , olympics , some horse racing

    so obviously F1 , a great british success , employs tens of thousands directly and indirectly , is included ; we need to catch the attention of as many as possible , encourage the young to develop the skills etc so that this continues

    hang on a minute , the free comprehensive BBC coverage is going to stop because the government has squeezed the BBC funding so that they can no longer afford it ; you will have to pay to follow the season , something like £60 / month

    put your money where your mouth is david

  4. @ Colin Grayson – The BBC will still show half the races live and the other half as highlights…I think you need to step into the real world and accept that all sports are moving into the pay arena – most football, golf, rugby etc are already on pay TV we have just been very fortunate with the F1

  5. It is amazing what Ron’s done there. However, very hypocritical of McLaren to invite David Cameron after the whole Bahrain debacle. You can’t denounce brutal crackdowns then have lunch with the guy who sold them the weapons…

    1. Jack,

      This sort of thing happens all the time. Yes, you can even denounce brutal crackdowns and have lunch with the people involved. That is politics.

  6. There are a lot of things the UK government could do to help strengthen the engineering sector. One of them would be to protect the title “engineer” – a legal secretary is not a barrister just as a repair technician is not an engineer. Giving the title of “engineer” some professional weight might sound trivial, but it’d boost the credibility and prestige of the profession.

    Of course, more usefully would be pushing a huge amount of money into higher wages for maths and science teachers so that the teaching profession is taken more seriously by better qualified people.

  7. ‘First of all I do admire what you do here at McLaren. There is something that doesn’t get said often enough which is that Formula 1 is an incredible British success story: every time Lewis or Jenson blast away from the starting grid they are doing so in cars built right here in Britain. Perhaps this is a point I’ll make to Chancellor Merkel when I see her tomorrow, who knows? Something to break the ice!’

    I wonder if Mr Cameron noticed all those three-pointed stars while he was in Woking!

  8. And this is the reason why I love F1 so much. When I have to explain relatives and friends the reason of my passion for F1, apart from the sport itself, I always make a point on the benefits of F1 technological competition. How the research and development done by teams and manufacturers applies to day to day world, mundane things.
    Many times they are skeptical, this posting is a great addition to my bag of arguments.
    What McLaren is doing with their programmes to inspire young people into science and technical careers deserves great recognition and hopefully, replication.

  9. I am hughely impressed by Camerons speach and knowledge (I know he probably didn’t wright this speach himself, but still…). He would get my vote if I was British! Rons operation is even more impressive. Si Frank, please pay attention – and get some advise from Ron now that you are expaning in all directions!

  10. joe , I fail to understand your comment , it would not have cost the government one penny to put F1 on the protected list

  11. Colin.

    Although I agree with you there is a consensus i’ve seen on here since the deal was made. Pay up and shut up. If you can’t pay, you don’t matter.

    It doesn’t matter that its a bad deal for everyone but Sky. We should just pay up.

  12. good to see ‘the editors’ have been at work on the pm’s speech:


    “every time Lewis or Jenson blast away from the starting grid they are doing so in cars built right here in Britain”


    “It is not just McLaren. When Michael Schumacher races it is in a car built in Britain”

    i wonder which line the german pm would find the funniest?

  13. @Rindt Fan
    Have YOU noticed that the 3 pointed star engine that powers a large number of F1 cars is designed and manufactured in Brixworth Northamptonshire?
    A few miles away is Brackley Northamptonshire, where the Silver Arrows are designed and built for the “All German” team!
    The Austrian, Indian, Russian and Malaysian/French F1 teams are all nearby.
    I don’t always agree with our PM, but in this matter he is unquestionably correct.

    1. sebastiaan…

      Of course he said it. I didn’t make it up. The official transcript did not include it. I was typing the quote into an iPhone in order to be instant in reporting so I typed what I heard.

  14. @Rindt Fan – the three-pointed star engines are purely British made. If I recall, Mercedes simply bought the original manufacturer but everything remained in the UK. Same applies to the current Mercedes F1 team…

  15. There is one genius in F1 and his name is Ron Dennis. It is stunning that anyone can go from being a mechanic to where he is now. So many people in F1 had far better chances and did nothing with them.

    Protecting the title engineer is trivial. It would not make a single business more viable. Britain and much of western civilisation needs to re-build the manufacturing sector that has been systematically destroyed over the last 30 years. How anyone ever thought a service based economy was a good idea is beyond me. It was guaranteed to fail. To guarantee prosperity you need to be able to take raw materials and turn them into something with more value than cost. In doing so you solve many of the world’s problems.

    Unfortunately we have evolved into a culture that is only interested in buying the lowest price item with no thought of the real costs. As a result manufacturing has moved to China and other low cost areas. Once you lose the manufacturing you lose the invention and development. Then what do you have?

  16. Colin,

    Just to clarify, these events are protected:

    FIFA World Cup finals (all matches)
    UEFA European Football Championship finals (all matches)
    FA Cup final
    Scottish Cup final (applies to Scotland only)
    Grand National
    Epsom Derby
    Challenge Cup final
    World Cup final
    Wimbledon Championships men’s and women’s finals
    Olympic Games (it is not stated explicitly whether this refers to the Winter or Summer Games, or both)

    Formula 1 was only ever on free to air in recent times as advertisers and teams insisted on it.

  17. martin UK , you appear to be under a misapprehension , I don’t live in the UK and couldn’t watch on Sky if I wanted to , not that I would pay money to any company in the News International group in the light of recent events

    I have a choice of channels where I can watch FTA , so am not affected

    why appals me is the hypocrisy of someone giving a speech on the critical importance of the skills needed for this industry , while excluding F1 from the protected list so it gets maximum UK exposure …the list was drawn up by his political party and there would be no on cost to making an addition to the list

    whether or not he is influenced by the fact that he needs the backing of the newspapers owned by the group that has profited by the partial withdrawal of the BBC , or whether his political party gets donations from them , I cannot say

  18. Yes, I was well aware that the Mercedes F1 engines are designed and built in Northamptonshire by the company that began life as Ilmor.

    In fact, only a couple of weeks ago I stayed at The Aviator hotel (highly recommended) at Sywell Aerodrome near Northampton prior to attending Dan Wheldon’s memorial service.

    Sywell is where Paul Morgan, (the ‘mor’) of Ilmor, sadly died flying a classic plane a few years ago. Outside the hotel there is now a beautiful fountain that has been erected in memory of Paul. In addition, a Paul Morgan Display Hall is open to the public.

  19. Hi Joe! Fantastic articles as always.

    Can you post more high-res pictures of MPC/MTC, please? I can’t find them anywhere.

  20. BBC documentary, How To Build . . . A Supercar, up now on iPlayer. Lots of MP4-12C and manufacturing eye candy. Nicer, lots of employees on camera. Maybe just three or four 30 second links with Ron. Class.

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