TATA Steel, the world's largest steel manufacturer, has joined the calls for the UK government to appoint a manufacturing minister, in a bid to support the country's foundation industries.
Karl Köhler, CEO of Tata Steel’s European operations, called for the appointment of a single minister to champion the sector in government, while overseeing key issues crucial to the industry such as energy policy.
Dr Karl Ulrich Koehler, TATA’s European operations chairman, said: “The move would champion the UK’s foundation industries, such as chemical, glass, metal and cement makers and galvanize the UK economy outside the South East. However, Business Secretary, Dr Vince Cable has dismissed the notion, claiming such a move would be a token gesture.”
Dr Koehler feels the presence of a new minister would also help combat increasing energy costs which could force some firms out of the UK, and tackle the skills shortage.
The call comes after a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report highlighting the contribution the sector makes to the UK and the damaging effect the financial crisis had on the sector, with it contracting by almost a quarter during the recession.
The report also highlights the role manufacturing plays in driving innovation and skills, as well as providing nearly 500,000 jobs and accounting for £69bn in turnover annually.
Dr Koehler, whose company opened the UK’s largest steel plate centre in Wolverhampton last week, added the report makes clear how important foundation industries are to the UK.
“If the Government is serious about re-balancing the economy and creating sustainable jobs in the regions, it must recognise the importance of the UK’s foundation industries. We’re not asking for hand outs, but we deserve a level-playing field and an equal seat at the table.”