fbpx 'Made in Britain' - Where Do You Draw The Line? - Make it British Skip to content

'Made in Britain' – Where Do You Draw The Line?

Should a product and all of its components be made here in order for it to be labelled as ‘Made in Britain’?

Rowlett-Rutland-Toaster

I recently started up an e-petition to ask the UK Government to introduce a standardised Made in Britain logo, and part of the wording on the e-petition contains the following phrase:-

“We would like there to be a standardised Made in Britain logo, similar to the red tractor logo that is used on foods, that can be used across all consumer goods indicating that a significant proportion of a product has been made in Britain.”

I have since had a well-respected London tailor get in touch with me to say that, despite her support for British manufacturing, she didn’t sign the petition because she had read it to mean that it would cover products not entirely made in the UK, and as someone who manufactured all of her products here she wouldn’t use such a logo if ‘those products’ were included. This is despite the fact that she doesn’t use entirely British-made fabrics for her garments.
So this led us on to a big debate about where exactly you draw the line at classifying something as Made in Britain.

Does it mean that every component of a product has to have been made here? If not, as in the case of the tailor, should it mean that the product is only assembled here?

Well, that depends on your understanding of the word ‘assembled’, which can vary from industry to industry. Maybe YES in the case of a garment where assembly means cutting, stitching, pressing and labelling, but NO in the case of a board game, where assembly may mean gathering up various (foreign-made) constituent parts and putting them into a box.

When I used the word ‘significant’ I did it intentionally so as to EXCLUDE companies who merely assembled pre-fabricated parts here for cost reasons, such as some footwear manufacturers who have the labour intensive job of upper-stitching done abroad and add the sole to the shoe in the UK, whilst ensuring that I DID NOT exclude manufacturers where pre-fabricated components could only be brought in from abroad because there is no longer the capacity to make them here, such as Rowlett Rutland toasters, where the heating elements inside are made in India. But I agree, the whole ‘is it or isn’t it’ made in Britain line is a difficult one to know where to draw

The reason that I started this petition in the first place was because I was appalled to hear about how pottery was being passed off as Made in England when in fact only the last stage in the production process was carried out here. When this dubious practice was raised in the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the department responsible for manufacturing in this country, responded by saying that businesses should undertake voluntary labelling in order to identify their products as made in Britain. This voluntary labelling is exactly what my campaign is trying to eliminate – because with voluntary labelling, what is to stop those footwear manufacturers who stitch pre-sewn uppers on to their soles in the UK from tagging their shoes with a self-proclaimed ‘made in Britain’ label?

What do you think? What should classify a product as made in Britain? Are there any particular industries where it is impossible to make every part in the UK?

Unfortunately it is too late now to change the word ‘significant’ on the petition, but please don’t let this stop you from signing it. The more people who show that they are not happy with people passing foreign goods off as made in Britain the more likely that some of these dubious practices will stop.

If you would like to sign our petition for a Made in Britain logo please go to this page on the HM Government website.

And don’t forget to follow the link in the confirmation email that they send you, otherwise your vote won’t count.

Comments

26 Comments

  1. David Jamieson on March 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I had a very similar thought last week — I was reading an article about a small company in the UK who make leather bags (can’t recall the name). However they could not source leather in the UK so it was imported.

    While the bag was completely “Made In the UK” it was clear some of the product was sourced externally. It made me wonder just where we do draw the line.

    I’m not sure there is an easy answer — clearly it is impossible for some items to have all components sourced in the UK as we have almost no industry left.

    Manufactured in the UK doesn’t have the same ring to it, but is more truthful.

    In your example of the tailor — does this mean she can not source the material in the UK or simply that it is much cheaper outwith the UK? Again, that is another issue. Having Indian sweat-shop cloth turned into a nice garment in the UK is not in the spirit of the ‘brand’. (Just to be clear I am not suggesting the tailor uses a sweat-shop but I am using an extreme example)

    Personally, I feel where we simply can’t source components in the UK it should still be permitted to carry the moniker.

    • on March 5, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Good points made David.
      I should imagine that in both the case of the tailor and the bag maker that they source the cloth & leather from somewhere like Italy where there are still a lot more mills and tanneries than we have left in the UK.
      In the case of leather for ladies handbags for instance, the few tanneries that we have left in Britain do not make the more supple leathers that we have come to expect in this type of product. I certainly don’t think that using imported leathers should stop someone making handbags in the UK from using the logo because the raw material has been taken and turned into something completely different i.e. leather has become bag. Whereas in the case of something like tea, where the raw material has been grown abroad and packaged in the UK, it is still called tea, so it is a diiferent matter IMHO

      • Roslyn Whiting on March 9, 2013 at 11:34 am

        Hi David and Kate,

        I have my own leathercraft business and like yourselves very passionate about British Made products.

        I have spent hours searching for British leather. So far I have only found 3 British tanneries that use British hides and only one of those dyes other colours other than browns and black (unless you order in large quantities, which I can’t do as a small business). I have also managed to source buckles made in this country. My belts are all British (apart from the linen thread, which is made in this country but the linen is from outside Britian).

        I have found one tannery that tans the nice soft leather in this country but the hides aren’t from this country. I am looking to try and use they’re leather for my bags. I did find a company who has British hides but they are all exported and not used by the tanneries in this country.

        I try to source as many British products as I can. I know I’m small but I want to help keep British people in jobs I can.

        An extra little note is that the British leather that I use is lovely and such better quality than my other leather.

    • Dawn Hicks on September 19, 2019 at 6:01 pm

      I believe if something is made entirely in the UK then it should proudly display the union jack, however, companies like silentnight are out-sourcing their products for other companies to produce ie pillows and they are being made in Macedonia. Silentnight are putting these in packaging displaying the union jack on it and saying made in the UK. Silentnight insist they are made in the UK but Macedonia is not Manchester.

  2. John Robertson on March 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Just to complicate things, if materials come from a country with
    civil rights and a
    welfare state,
    I count that as fairer competition than something made cheaply because there are no costs of democracy, courts, police, hospitals, or pensions built-in to the price.

    Maybe extra notes on the bottom of the label would help?

    If I were better at web design I would quote the democracy index of each product I sell in my shop and help people to search for that; no index of welfare state costs in Italy or India or China exist that I have discovered and suggestions are welcome.

  3. Mandy on March 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I think Made in Britain should be used if a certain percentage of the product is made in the UK. So for example if say 95% of it was made in the UK and 5% had to be outsourced i would still consider that to be Made in Britain.

    We use the percentages to classify product. So for example if a scarf has 95% cashmere in in, we would still call it a ‘cashmere’ scarf. If it only has 50% you would clasify it as ‘cashmere mix’. So the same should be for Made in Britain.

    However i agree that Made in Britain doesnt necessarily mean that the material is British, so there has to be a clear labelling system. Made in Britain with British Materials/components, or Made in Britain with non British material/components. Maybe we need to label the products as we would do for composition.

    95% made in Britain
    5% non British

    80% material made in Britian
    20% material non British

    There are loopholes out there – i remember someone saying that a garment was made in China, but it was brought into Europe and the buttons were attached and it suddenly became Made in Italy for example. That should definitely not be allowed! This was quite a while back, so the loophole might no longer exist.. am not so up to date with this sort of thing!

    Keep up the great work Kate. I always look forward to your updates.

    Petition signed!!

    • on March 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Mandy
      You’re right – there was a particular loophole with this in Italy, not sure if it still exists.
      I remember going to a ‘manufacturer’, and i’ll use the word in the loosest possible way, who made zig-zag knit scarves in Macedonia for a well-known Italian designer knitwear firm, and sewed the labels on in Florence – and those labels had Made in Italy on! the scarves in question sell for several hundreds of pounds each, I think you know the ones 😉

  4. Jane on March 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    In my case the woollen & worsted cloth I use in my work comes from British mills. These mills buy in bales of wool and take the wool all through the many processes to make cloth – including blending, carding, combing, spinning, weaving, dyeing & finishing. I purchase the cloth, print on it and then make it up into interior products. However the wool used to make this cloth comes mostly from merino sheep farmed in countries such as Australia. This is tradionally because a lot of our British sheep breeds have coarser wool more suited to carpet making. So……. I have to call my products ” British-made”. Going forward, I hope to experiment with cloth now being produced in Britain, using wool blends from British sheep breeds and look forward to producing products in the future which I can call ” 100% British”.

  5. Liz on March 6, 2013 at 7:47 am

    How about something like a 5 point star where each of the star represents an element of the process carried out in UK..
    eg:
    Raw materials (clay, wool, metal)
    Initial processing (such as casting, forming, moulding, weaving, pringting circuit boards)
    Construction and finishing (eg painting a mug, sewing seams)
    Final assembly
    Labelling and packaging

    To get a green, >80% of the time (?) on that process should be spent in UK.

    Could make it more complicated to define and monitor, but a star with 5 green points would be easy for consumers to understand.

  6. Kate on March 6, 2013 at 8:54 am

    It is a very difficult subject and a topic that we regularly reassess ourselves or discuss with our customers here at L. K. Rosa.

    When making jewellery there are only limited numbers of stones that are still mined in the UK and therefore it is essential to import quality stones from elsewhere, the same story goes for precious metals. That said, when we can find items that are Made in Britain or recycled in Britain, we do choose these over those from abroad.

    Your logo is a wonderful idea: With education and encouragement, consumers will start buying more British items – wherever the line is drawn – people in BRITAIN should be receiving a reward for their work.

    As these businesses grow, people will begin to believe in the talent of Britain; more jobs will be created and with any luck our industry will be revived – meaning the components WILL be made here as well as assembled: If the market is there, then someone can sell it!

    As I understand it, the petition is to eliminate fraudsters or people who are making items in a foreign factory then importing them here and stamping made in Britain on the bottom. Business owners need to set out with the right intention and not just a gimmick. The fact remains that there is an amazing world of organic, fairtrade, sustainable or environmentally sound fabrics, gems, and beautiful things that are found abroad and are not available in the UK – the world has a wealth of wonders and there is nothing wrong with buying from abroad!

    Ultimately, we should be supporting British manufacture not just because it’s fashionable, but due to a wealth of important reasons including but not limited to economic recovery and stability, hope, belief, quality, security, environment, jobs and happiness.

    I have no clear answer as to where we should draw the line – but if together we all strive for high quality, thoughtful items that prove a genuine concern for backing British manufacture and creating jobs for the talented people we have here in our nation – it is a good place to begin writing a decent strategy and finding ‘that line’ we are searching for.

    I love what you’re doing with this petition and wholly believe that this debate will lead to answers ultimately. You can count on our support!

  7. Fabienne Lecocq on March 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    We design silk fabrics which are then woven in English mills and made into products by skilled craftsmen across the UK creating a 100% Made In Britain product.

    However we get the occasional question of the origins of the silk, which of course can’t possibly come from the UK we sadly don’t have the climate! For a rare extreme few, that becomes a problem however there are limits to what we can source within the UK due to environmental restraints. Wools etc can certainly be sourced on our home soil.

    We believe a logo would be a fantastic extra to every British Made product and I will certainly sign the petition(probably have already) but I worry about how it can be controlled. As some companies could get the logo then change their suppliers and continue to use the logo implying they are British made. It would have to be regulated etc, which is a big job, as its fantastic how many brands are out there who need and deserve this logo.

    I think a product needs to be as close to 100% Made in GB as possible, and maybe if it is found that they outsource/import items which could be done in the UK, they shouldn’t have it, as they are choosing not to make it in Britain when they could.

    or is that too harsh?

  8. Edward Henson on March 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I read this thought provoking article and the comments left and this is an extremely difficult problem to address.

    As far as we are concerned we use British suppliers for fabric, thread, needles etc and all are made abroad. The products are designed, cut, stitched and marketed in the UK but on Chinese made machines so where do you draw the line?

    I think in this day and age where components needed for products can only be found abroad then it would be unfair on the manufacturer to loose the made in Britain tag – which lets face it is a selling point that helps to export products built on a reputation for quality.

    Personally, I dont have the answers but my personal feeling is that if the product is actually UK made (regardless of where the materials are sourced), employing British workers for the majority of the production then this should be allowed. I agree that just finishing a product in the UK is misleading if they are using the British connection as a sales point, but isnt it better to have even a small part of the manufacturing process in this country rather than none at all? If we deprive them of their made in Britain sales pitch then whats to stop them making the whole thing abroad and we lose even more jobs?

    Its a real problem and one thats probably not just limited to the UK, as more and more manufacturing heads east.

    Will just have to sit back and see what happens. We have signed the petition and hope it reaches the number of signatures required so this issue can finally be addressed.

    As always, great article Kate.

    Edd (& Mark) @ PD

    • Lizzy on March 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      I’m in the same position as you, Edd, – my fabrics, threads and needles are imported. Even the fabric printed in UK is woven abroad. I have managed to find some British-made pins though, much to my delight, but that’s only because they’re vintage ! Yet I make all my actual products right here, in Britain. I had hoped to do a range of children’s t-shirts, but as I was unable to find a UK manufacturer to supply them, I abandoned the idea, as I felt using imported t-shirts and embellishing them definitely wouldn’t count as Made in Britain.

      I do agree with what you have said and it’s unfair to penalise the companies who can’t source their raw materials or components in UK. Even if the cotton mills were still up and running, the raw cotton would have to be imported.

      So, yes, it is difficult to know where to draw the line and what can be sourced here varies from industry to industry, so that must be taken into account too.

      Love reading your articles, Kate, and have been retweeting your petition.

      • Edward Henson on March 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        Hi Lizzy.

        Its good to see someone else in a similiar position.

        Im not sure if you have seen some of the other comments but one has been posted which I have to disagree with slightly (Fabienne Lococq).

        They make a number of good points but the one I objected to is this:
        “I think a product needs to be as close to 100% Made in GB as possible, and maybe if it is found that they outsource/import items which could be done in the UK, they shouldn’t have it, as they are choosing not to make it in Britain when they could.”

        I think that is harsh. Although our core materials are not British, they are still keeping British people in work by servicing the machines, cutting and selling fabric etc as well as us who are producing the product.

        All our labels and tags are British which in turn helps their companies – the list of people you support by buying British is endless and we all benefit if the money stays in the country and all the companies pay tax (unlike some mentioned on the news recently!! But surely there has to be a line where loyalty to your country ends and your business head has to kick in. If you cant compete with what other people in your sector are doing then you have to look at purchasing foreign made fabric etc. Its very harsh to say we have chosen not to buy / make it British like the other contributor to this debate has mentioned.

        If you make a high end product then you have more flexibility, but in the lower end like us whereby our most expenisive item is less than £10 then we just cant compete without buying this cheaper fabric and the public are only willing to spend so much on an item – even if it is British.

        I would be gutted to be penalised for not using British products as in our case, its simply not affordable and there isnt such a large choice but that doesnt mean we wouldnt buy a British alternative if it was suitable for our requirements.

        E Henson

        • Fabienne Lecocq on March 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm

          With regards to my comment about choice, it most definitely depends on the business/product being made, we can’t be a company stating we specialize in british made fabrics and then get it made elsewhere, are ethos would be gone completely. For instance if you make dresses and say they are Made in Britain but the fabric is imported, that falls the same as you are producing and making the item here.

          my comment is directed towards many brands I know who choose to have bags, clothes, shoes etc everything made abroad and it then has a stamp of made in britain because an intern has tagged it with the tag gun or sewn on a button. ( i was one of those interns once)

          This is where the above has chosen to take advantage of getting everything made abroad and having the benefits of pricing it as a made in britain product.

          For me thats not fair.

          there are lots of imported products/items that businesses need to make an item in the uk such as the items you have listed, we fit in that category, as certain things can’t be made here or would cost ridiculous money to develop.

          its when blatant pretending and importing finished goods and claiming its Made in GB, thats where it bothers me, as otherwise we might as well all give up and do the same, thats who I meant should be penalized/ controlled.

          It is a difficult one as I have spoken to some people who say it should be the same level as food, where it is 100% British etc and nothing else goes into the item to make it. i’m no expert but i’m sure not all cows, chickens, breads, cheeses etc are being fed/made/grown with pure british produce. Look at chocolate- we can’t grow that- or sugar! (i may be wrong as i don’t know about food manufacuturing/growing/harvesting)

          hope makes sense!

          • Edward Henson on March 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm

            Yes makes sense! Thanks for clarifying.

            Food is a whole different problem – dont get me started on that one. It infuriates me so much!!!



          • Lizzy on March 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm

            Ooooo, really glad we’ve cleared that one up 🙂

            Fabienne, in an ideal world I would love to source everything here and I am quite prepared to pay more (to a limit, of course). I have found that not only is it incredibley hard to source British-made fabrics & notions, but quite often the British manufacturers that I do find won’t even talk to me, as I only ever require very small quantities. I was quite prepared to pay ten times for some fabric when I discovered it is made here (I am currently using an imported version). And even though the British manufacturer could sell to me in the smaller quantities that I require, I’d have to be prepared to be sent random colours, as chosen by their cutting machine !!! Plus, the main shade I require they don’t do anyway.

            I also found a disused British mill with some remaining stock that they hasn’t sold in 6yrs, that I would quite happily have brought all of it just because it was woven here, but they wanted me to buy a load of fabrics that I’d never use too. That would have been completely unviable for me to do and very wasteful, as I’d have no use for 5/6 of the package ! Sometimes it can be so disheartening trying to support British manufacturers.

            I do draw the line at just decorating something ready-made that has been imported ie t-shirts, mugs, shoes, bags etc and then labelling those as Made in Britain. & what Fabienne was saying about just having a button sewn on etc, well that’s totally unacceptable.

            Fabienne, you’ll be pleased to hear that “Silver Spoon” uses British grown sugar beet and proudly displays the red tractor logo on it’s bags of sugar 🙂



  9. Syd Partridge on March 11, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I researched this a few years back and I think it is still covered by the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.
    Section 36 of the Act states that ‘goods are deemed to have been manufactured or produced in the country in which they last underwent a treatment or process resulting in a substantial change.’
    The problem of course, is what constitutes a substantial change.
    You used the word ‘significant’ which agrees with the spirit of the Act.
    One of the main difficulties in applying a standard is that it has to be applicable across all sectors of manufacturing.
    With the demise of the manufacturing base in the UK, many raw materials have to be imported especially within the heavy industry sector. With certain materials, for example copper, which is not mined in the UK it is impossible for a manufacturer to source from the UK. This is also true in the jewellery sector where precious stones need to be imported and there are many other examples across all sectors. This means that these products are not entirely made in the UK . A 5 star system seems like a good idea but a genuinely British made item could be marked down to 4 stars because the manufacturer is unable to source their raw materials in the UK.
    Any base for legislation has to appreciate how the raw materials for manufacturing are obtained . I personally think you have covered this with the word ‘significant’

  10. Steve Longden on March 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I love this article.

    I see this as 2 fold:

    1. Items which are “assembled” in the UK, using imported materials (or a signiifcant proportion of).

    2. Items which are “made in the UK”, using UK materials (or a significant proportion of).

    Whilst I am in support of both processes, I really do feel that those products which are manufactured using UK materials deserves a greater recognition than those that are purely assembled here.
    I am in the current position of having something a shirt made which is “significantly” made out of UK materials (fabric) but I couldnt vouch for the origin of the buttons I will use on a shirt. My opinion is that this product deserves the recognition of “made in the UK”.
    If we turn on the flip side, if I was importing the fabric but using buttons from the UK, I woudnt feel comfortable in stating my shirt was “Made in the UK”.

    • Syd Partridge on April 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      Or 3 fold if we add: Items which are “manufactured” in the UK, using imported materials (or a significant proportion of).
      To use your shirt:
      ‘If we turn on the flip side, if I was importing the fabric but using buttons from the UK, I wouldn’t feel comfortable in stating my shirt was “Made in the UK”. ‘
      In my view although the fabric might be imported the shirt has been ‘made in Britain’. It is the skill of the craftsman that has turned that piece of fabric into something worthwhile. He or she has made it.
      However if the components parts had been made abroad but stitched together over here (assembled) then I don’t think it could be classed as British made.

  11. Indre on March 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    As a tiny business making handbags in London, I would be very proud to be able to label my product with ‘Made in Britain’ logo. I am very aware that making my bags elsewhere would cost me the fraction on my costs, but also would lower the pride factor significantly. I signed the petition in hope that I would be able to use this label in the future.

    Regarding the debate on where we draw the line, I can’t source all the materials from UK for different reasons – either they are not available or too expensive here. If buying materials from abroad would mean I can’t use ‘Made in Britain’ label, then I might as well outsource the manufacturing from abroad as that would reduce my costs and save my time. I really wouldn’t want to make this decision and believe this outcome would not benefit the customers and the country.

    Just some more food for thought….

    #IJ London

  12. Dave on April 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    How about designed developed and manufactured in the UK.?

  13. Kathleem Smith on April 2, 2013 at 10:07 am

    One of the reasons we don’t have many ‘tanneries ‘ etc is that people are no longer trained in such crafts . We lost a great deal when apprenticeships were done away with .Here in Germany such still exist and so do the goods and the suppliers . By all means use say Spain , Italy or Germany but certainly not China etc . The quality there is terrible , chemicals are used which are toxic and so it goes . Quality control is very important and let’s see a move make to skilled craftsmen who know a trade . They are the framework of a country .

  14. Mark Connor on April 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Just a short point that I have thought about for a while .We have to pay a green tax on the energy we use. Why can’t Governments tax all products’ that can’t prove that where produced in an environmental or ethical way .This would make it fairy for all those producers who experience huge additional costs making things the correct way.

    An additional point with regards tanneries- they produce a lot of waste that has to be treated correctly This may be one major reason why a lot of leather is sourced from other places.

    • Syd Partridge on April 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Mark , two very interesting points you make.
      For some time now certain items have been sourced from countries that do not have to abide by environmental legislation and as a result the product can be manufactured much more cheaply. However, some environmental legislation results in certain chemicals being banned altogether. The latest is the REACH directive which I understand has already resulted in certain paints being banned from use within the EU.
      Because these paints are so important in aircraft manufacture, the process is now carried out in South America where the REACH directive does not apply. I am told that the next chemical on the hit list is hexavalent chrome which is used in chromium plating, paints and leather tanning amongst other things. Once chromium plating is moved to South America how long before some ‘bright spark’ says – why not manufacture the whole aircraft over there?
      The result of this legislation apart from moving industry away from the UK is to create industries abroad that have no environmental controls and as a consequence similar working conditions to those Britain experienced during the Industrial Revolution with the resultant pollution.
      To go back to your point on tax, which is a good idea. If legislation means we are unable to manufacture certain items in this country because the process uses a substance that is banned, then those manufacturers will be unable to show that they are ethically manufactured abroad because they have been manufactured using a banned substance.

  15. Mike Graham on June 28, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    why not use the USA formula where 51% of the “added value” is made in the UK

    Added value could be components combined with high UK labour costs

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Weekly Newsletter

Blog Categories

Search the Site