BIS cancels Manufacturing Framework

Posted on 8 Dec 2010 by The Manufacturer

The Government’s Manufacturing Framework, due for release today (December 8), has been cancelled for the immediate future, in favour of a Growth Review that requires more consultation with industry.

The Manufacturing Framework, the document designed to articulate the key points on which to build a new manufacturing strategy for the UK, will not be launched before April 2011.

The cessation of the Framework will dismay many manufacturers and supporters of UK industry and represents an embarrassment for government, as senior ministers have repeatedly echoed that the manufacturing sector needs to grow and deserves a long term strategy.

The Framework was initially intended to be published on December 3, which was put back to Monday December 6 and then postponed to today (December 8). A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) confirmed it will not be launched in any version this month.

In its place, on Thursday BIS intends to launch the formal consultation invitation for the Growth Review, the white paper it announced on November 27 that intends to investigate the growth needs for manufacturing companies, focusing on areas including advanced engineering.

Rather than a prescriptive framework or strategy, the Growth Review will call on businessmen to recommend aspects of the administrative structure they desire to develop a competitive business landscape in the UK.

Taxation and regulation are expected to feature heavily in the review, among other items such as EU law, government support for business and the revised compulsory retirement age, a source of increasing confusion to employers.

Following the consultation period, during which in theory any [manufacturing] company can tender a submission, the findings of the Review will be published in early April before the 2011 Budget.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Vince Cable and the Business Minister Mark Prisk have all publicly voiced the importance of manufacturing to Britain’s economy and pledged their commitment to support and guide the sector through a period of political change. Hard details of this support have been scant, and the Framework was widely expected to provide the desired vision and rigour for an industrial strategy.

Commenting, a BIS Spokesperson, seemingly blurred the lines between the Growth Review and the Manufacturing Framework, saying:

“As part of the Advanced Manufacturing growth review we will be publishing a framework for discussion which will be launched in the next few days.

“This will set out the initial thinking that we have developed with industry over the summer and call for more evidence. The discussion framework and the evidence we gather over the next few months will feed into the growth review and we will announce policy proposals by the 2011 budget.”

Siemens Industry Sector MD, Juergen Maier, who was involved in the creation of the Framework, says this marries up with correspondence he had from BIS this morning informing him of the cancellation.

“My understanding is that the Framework has been rolled into the overall Growth strategy that continues to be drip fed out but we don’t know in exactly what form that will be,” he said.

He says he is disappointed to see the Framework cancelled as it somewhat undermines the good work government is already doing with regards to things like technology centres and the simplification of the skills strategy.

“We saw this Framework as an opportunity to bring everything together,” he added. “What’s good about a framework is that it brings clarity as to what those initiatives are and how the private sector can support them. I genuinely think there are a lot of good things happening but what’s missing now is how it all hangs together.

“We will continue to look for ways to work with the government to raise the profile and create more support for manufacturing but we see the cancellation of the Manufacturing Framework at short notice as a set back and a disappointment. We now need to know how we can ensure manufacturing gets its own space in the Growth Strategy.”

Having published its own industry paper, CBI Manufacturing Vision and Ambitions, on Monday, today’s development is sure to be particularly frustrating for the CBI.

One person close to the BIS advisory group who understood that the Framework was on track to be released on Wednesday told TM that there at least five versions the Framework has been seen already and that there has been “absolutely no explanation as to why it has been cancelled.” He said that one advisor to BIS who represents a very large company had been “staggeringly underwhelmed” by the decision to drop the keenly anticipated document.

There is little doubt that many senior advisers to BIS, from large companies, the CBI and academia, will be hugely disappointed with the ‘no show’ of a crucially important guide to government’s views on UK industry. This is particularly germane at the moment when economic data shows that manufacturing and exports are leading the economic recovery, and when many see now as the best time to articulate long term policies on taxation, trade rules and changes in red tape to UK companies and potential foreign investors in UK manufacturing.