Industrial Strategy: just talk or serious intent?

Posted on 24 Jan 2017 by Jonny Williamson

The Manufacturer's editorial director, Nick Peters, and Steven Barr, managing director of Hennik Edge dissect the launch of a green paper outlining the UK government’s thinking behind a long-term Industrial Strategy.

Ever since Theresa May took over as Prime Minister last July, the country has been waiting for what she promised would be a ‘proper’ industrial strategy. As she stood on the steps of Downing Street on the day she took office, she made it very clear she had strong views about the way business is done in modern Britain and spoke of putting workers on company boards and capping runaway executive pay.

Between then and now, manufacturers have been waiting, more in hope than expectation, for Mrs May to put some flesh on this bone. Admittedly, she has been more than a little distracted by the dominant issue of the day, Brexit, and it was clear that she believed the tone of her remarks in Downing Street last July was as important, as her specific pledges on corporate governance, because in due course she quietly resiled from those tough stances.

Equally, after appearing to flex her muscles over the agreement signed by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne with France and China for the construction of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C by suggesting she might scrap the plan, she then sent it through without amendment.

The industrial strategy, when it did arrive, promised much more than it delivered, basically because it isn’t a strategy yet. At a meeting of the Cabinet, symbolically staged on January 23 in the north of England, she delivered a green paper that effectively demonstrated her intention that government should become much more interventionist than was the case under her predecessor David Cameron, but without delivering any specifics.

There were broad pledges of greater investment in high speed broadband, further education and skills training alongside general ambitions for driving growth and exports. Through it all ran the idea that Britain is planning for a post-Brexit future.

The Manufacturer’s editorial director, Nick Peters caught up with Steven Barr of Hennik Edge to gauge his opinion.