Framework is cancelled

Posted on 7 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 developing a Growth Review that requires industry consultation.

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

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.

The cessation of the Manufacturing 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.

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 more 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 publically 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 the shape of this support have been scant, and the Framework was widely expected to provide the desired vision and rigour for a more unified industrial strategy.

The Framework’s termination will be especially frustrating for the two leading industry associations, EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and the CBI. On Monday the CBI published its own industry paper, CBI Manufacturing Vision and Ambitions. A spokesman for the CBI said that this paper and the Government’s Framework were formed in close cooperation and very much “interdependent” of each other. The Framework’s absence and unclear future will raise questions for some over the relevance of the CBI’s manufacturing ambitions document.

One person close to the advisory group to BIS who understood that the Framework was on track to be released on Wednesday told TM that at least five versions the Framework have been revised already and that there has been “absolutely no explanation as to why it was 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 manufacturing advisers to BIS, from large companies, EEF, 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.

A spokesman for BIS said the Growth Review consultation would give ministers more time to collate the requirements of a range of manufacturing companies for a more thorough analysis of those needs.