Cable beats others to industrial strategy appeal

Posted on 10 Sep 2012

The Business Secretary Vince Cable will make a speech on Tuesday morning setting out plans for an industrial strategy for the UK, just as lobbyists release their appeals for the same.

The Business Secretary Vince Cable told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday that he would release details of an industrial strategy for the UK, targeting specific measures to boost growth in areas like construction, manufacturing and the creative industries.

Aspects of the strategy were being debated in the House of Commons this afternoon, while the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has confirmed that details of the strategy will be given in a speech at Imperial College on Tuesday morning.

Today, manufacturers’ organisation EEF and think tank the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group both released their visions for an industrial strategy, or central industrial policy.

EEF’s policy document calls for more companies to bring products and services to market, a lower cost of doing business in the UK, more globally focused companies expanding in the UK and a more productive and flexible labour market.

The Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group calls for better government leadership in manufacturing policy, overseen by a dedicated minister for manufacturing and orchestrated with industry, all the unions and cross party participation. Its paper was released today.

In parliament today, Dr Cable was quizzed by about 25 MPs on a range of questions asking him to qualify the content of his industrial strategy in the context of other government growth mechanisms and initiatives, such as the Regional Growth Fund, investment in infrastructure and the abandonment of the Regional Development Agencies.

The Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna latched on to the three highlighted industry sectors – cars, planes and medicine – and questioned the wisdom of “picking winners”, citing the failure of this policy under a previous Conservative administration.

Dr Cable denied that his strategy picked winners, but backed winning sectors where the UK could develop a strong comparative advantage and could create new jobs, citing the example of Jaguar Land Rover whose cars are exporting well.

MPs also asked consistently what could be done to help small and medium sized companies (SMEs), which find it more difficult than bigger companies to access bank lending and are arguably most in need of tax breaks for investment, such as R&D tax relief.

Dr Cable’s said his industrial strategy will cover many wealth-creating sectors of the economy, not only manufacturing, but construction and the creative and digital industries.

The Daily Telegraph reported this morning that his strategy will favour the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical sectors.

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler slammed the Government by asking in the newspaper whether there was the necessary leadership within BIS and government to realise export targets of £1 trillion that Chancellor George Osborne claimed the UK must reach by 2020.

However, Dr Cable cannot claim to have a stolen a march on the lobbying community.

Several big industry organisations have called for a much clearer industrial policy in recent months. In March, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders called for a strong policy framework to capitalise on the UK’s rampant automotive success story, as well as to support other economic growth.