Leaders identify key issues facing UK manufacturing

On Monday 17 July, more than 100 manufacturers and industry figures came together to discuss the political issues facing UK industry today.

UK manufacturing - The Under-Secretary of State for BEIS and Minister for Energy & Industry, Richard Harrington MP spoke about the importance of reaching out to business and listening to their views – image courtesy of APMG.
Minister for Energy & Industry, Richard Harrington MP spoke about the importance of reaching out to business and listening to their views – image courtesy of APMG.

The Reception for UK Manufacturing was held by the All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group (APMG) and EEF, and took place on the House of Lords river terrace.

The keynote address was delivered by the Under-Secretary of State for BEIS and Minister for Energy & Industry, Richard Harrington MP.

He commented: “I really believe that business collectively has got together and given a firm message for government, and that firm message is: ‘We are worried about what’s going to happen with Brexit and we entrust you to make sure that for us, in whatever business we are in, its business as usual.

“I can promise you, from myself, from Greg Clark, from Margot James, from everybody in our department, that we are here because it is the future of business.”

Speaking about the Industrial Strategy, which he described as the “cornerstone” of the department, the minister said: “I think people now realise that centralisation alone was not the answer.

“I think people on the other side of politics, people who just believed that the market mechanism alone was enough to deal with everything, I think that’s also something that has gone into a different era. We believe that with our Industrial Strategy, we have got things right. That we have got this balance which means businesses being involved in the pillars of the different parts of strategy.”

The reception was chaired by Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, chair of the Manufacturing Commission, and vice-chair of the APMG.

He commented on the effect of continued uncertainty around Brexit on the UK manufacturing sector by quoting the motto of Policy Connect – “Research, Engage and Collaborate”.

Chief executive of the EEF, Terry Scuoler CBE, spoke on his recent experience of representing businesses to the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis MP, as well as addressing the nation’s Brexit negotiations.

What is the APMG?

The All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group is a cross-party coalition of Parliamentarians and manufacturing industry organisations – including The Manufacturer.

The coalition works to develop new industrial policy ideas, critique existing government decision-making around manufacturing, communicate within Parliament the importance of a well-balanced productive economy, and help the manufacturing community better engage with the policy process.

He explained: “We have just over 12 months’ time before some kind of deal must be agreed, and it must be taken before both the EU and UK parliaments for ratification. Who on earth would wish to unravel the best free trade agreement in the world that is currently, of course, the single market.

“Business needs a sensible, perhaps balanced, demand-led flow of labour at all levels to retain the skills base that we need, not just to grow, but simply to maintain our economy. We also need an agreement that supports ongoing frictionless trade, ensuring that no non-tariff barriers do not impede or prevent our ability to trade.

“Lastly, a meaningful transition period to allow business to prepare and implement whatever new arrangements are agreed. We in the UK continue to be a great trading nation and I am cautiously reassured, I am cautiously optimistic, that with a sense of balance, proportion and compromise, we can secure a good or goodish deal with our EU partners”

Closing the event, Lord Bilimoria looked to the future and the role of the UK manufacturing sector in the world: “I think that we as Britain, have a huge role to play. Although we are no longer the global manufacturing power that we were, we are still very much a global power and manufacturing is a key part of our influence in the world.”