Spalding area MP Sir John Hayes MP: Protecting British business is about more than money
To challenge the orthodoxy of zealous ‘free traders’ has come to be regarded as unthinkable; to offer a contrary opinion unfathomable. Yet, beyond the confines of Westminster and the gated lives of the establishment, most people know that unrestricted free trade is rarely truly free and seldom fair.
Decades of economic policy led to the hording of capital and as a smaller number of Britons have a meaningful slice of our nation’s wealth, financial power resides in fewer hands.
Previous Governments, by failing to tackle unsustainable public and personal debt, tipped the national economy into crisis and plunged many families into despair. Simultaneously, the creation of monopolistic corporate behemoths, which, by crippling competition - disadvantaging consumers, for whose interests they have such little genuine regard – has stifled the pluralism so vital to the health of a free economy.
Perhaps most damaging of all, supply chains, once local and efficient, have been replaced by commercial supranationalism, perpetuated by a combination of dogma and greed. Nowhere is this more evident than in the aisles of supermarkets. Good quality, fresh food was once routinely produced a short distance from the shops in which it was sold and the tables at which it was eaten. Today, greedy corporations pretend that shipping food half way around the world before its consumption epitomises customer choice - foodstuffs that could have been produced here in our own country.
This globalist approach - designed to maximise profits for those at the top by squeezing farmers, growers, producers and consumers - does untold damage to our environment, decimates high streets and undermines small, family-run businesses. Surely, food security alone necessitates a different approach.
During my time as a Minister, I attempted, repeatedly, to ensure that public sector organisations purchased British goods. Only to be told that ‘state aid rules’ prohibited giving preference to domestic products. Just imagine the French or Germans buying British vehicles to replace Citroens or BMWs!They don’t of course - favouring instead what’s made in their own countries from now on so should we. Outdated procurement regulations that mean all deals must be based on price alone – even if that means shipping goods across the globe – should be replaced by a ‘buy British’ policy .
It is time to challenge the power of monopolies and know again that small is beautiful and that local is too. Mutuals and cooperatives, acting in the interests of their members and local communities, can take back control from soulless global corporations. By these means, we can ensure that our country, once the greatest producer in the world, again makes more – building the greater self-sufficiency which all sovereign nations should embrace.
When we wish to buy from overseas, our departure from the European Union provides a welcome opportunity to renew a preference for old friends and allies. A century ago the great British statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, in his drive for tariff reform, championed Imperial Preference, an updated version of which would see us looking once again to our commonwealth cousins, with whom we share a cultural affinity.
Britain’s new saint, Cardinal John Henry Newman – always one of my personal heroes, spoke of the bonds which by connecting each of us strengthen us all.Such ties are reinforced by what we buy and sell and where we do so.
It is time for an economic renaissance. National success, gauged for decades by how much profit is accumulated by the hyper-wealthy, should from now on be measured by the welfare and wellbeing of families and local communities. Protecting British businesses is about more than money, its about safeguarding the common good in the national interest.