Sheffield steel boss ‘proud’ to be recommended for knighthood in David Cameron’s honours list

Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook, is in line for a knighthood
Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook, is in line for a knighthood
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Sheffield industrialist Andrew Cook says he is “proud and pleased” to be recommended for a knighthood after he was included in former prime minister David Cameron’s controversial list of honours.

Mr Cook, aged 66, chairman of William Cook Holdings Ltd, said he had done his best for UK manufacturing and supported Mr Cameron’s Remain campaign believing it was in the best interests of the country.

He spoke out after another donor, Ian Taylor, who runs oil and gas company Vitol, is reportedly set to refuse his offer of a knighthood. The list has attracted criticism for including members of Mr Cameron’s staff, including his wife’s stylist.

Mr Cook employs 600 people at sites in Sheffield, Leeds and Bishop Auckland.

He is the biggest donor to the Tory party in Yorkshire, handing it £1m since 2005. He was also treasurer of the Conservatives’ In campaign ahead of the Referendum donating a further £300,000. He has also lent his private plane to David Cameron several times.

Speaking from his company headquarters in Sheffield, Andrew Cook said: “I have tried to serve my country as best I can and I am proud and pleased the former Prime Minister has acknowledged this by recommending to Her Majesty that I receive a knighthood.

“For more than three decades I have done my best for UK manufacturing in general and the engineering industry in particular. I actively supported David Cameron’s considerable efforts to persuade the electorate to vote to remain in the EU, as I believed this was in the best interests of the country, the economy and the engineering industry.

“I am disappointed the vote went against us, but will continue to do everything in my power to promote and safeguard Britain as an advanced manufacturing nation.”

The former Prime Minister, who quit after the country voted to leave the EU in the Referendum on June 29, drew up a controversial resignation honours list that rewarded 48 Remain campaigners, No 10 staff and donors, including his wife Samantha’s special adviser.

The recommendations are due to be considered by an independent Whitehall honours committee in coming days.

William Cook Holdings Ltd, founded in 1840, makes equipment for the rail and energy industries. It is also a longstanding supplier to the Ministry of Defence and has received orders totalling £100m in the last eight months for tracks for armoured vehicles.

In the run up to the Referendum vote Andrew Cook said Britain faced a return to the 1970s and major job losses in manufacturing if the UK voted to leave the EU due to the loss of access to the single market.

He said then: “It is no exaggeration to say that without the single European market, the UK manufacturing sector would be significantly smaller still, as would William Cook.”

Mr Cook has invested £10m in his Yorkshire facilities over the last two years. In Leeds, he has spent £5m on new machine tools and factory buildings to make components for the European rail industry. He has invested a similar sum in Sheffield to bring two sites together following the collapse of the oil and gas industry.

In May, Cook Defence Systems won a £30m contract to supply parts for a new fleet of British Army fighting vehicles.

The firm - part of the William Cook Group - will supply the track system for AJAX, hailed the most advanced armoured vehicle in the world and set to come into service in 2019.

In September 2014, the Ministry of Defence placed a £3.5 billion order for 589 AJAXs, which will be assembled in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, by General Dynamics Land Systems-UK.

William Cook, general manager, said then: “We won this contract despite stiff international competition. I am pleased that we can help deliver the very best for the British.”

Cook Defence Systems is part of the William Cook group, a Sheffield steelmaker which traces its history back to 1840 and whose factories have manufactured tracks and armour for British tanks since the Second World War.

It was the second announcement for the company in recent months.

In November, defence secretary Michael Fallon visited the company to announce a £70m, four-year deal to support the army’s existing armoured vehicles, including the 62-tonne Challenger 2 main battle tank, Warrior infantry fighting vehicle and Scimitar reconnaissance vehicle.

Mr Fallon said: “This company has a long and proud tradition of providing track for British armoured vehicles, having done so since the Second World War. This contract follows on from the £70 million I announced when I visited William Cook group last year. It is part of our £178 billion equipment plan, backed by a growing defence budget.”

William Cook has two factories in Sheffield - off the Parkway and in Holbrook - one in Leeds and one in County Durham.

The UK’s largest steel casting group, it is a Tier Two partner at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.