British manufacturers have called on ministers to stop stalling and urgently come up with an industrial strategy, warning that the absence of a long-term plan is holding back growth and hurting the UK’s competitiveness.
The appeal by trade body Make UK highlights growing frustration in the industry over the government’s lack of efforts to help a crucial sector of the UK economy since the decision to drop the latest industrial strategy in March 2021.
“The lack of an adequate, planned, industry strategy it’s the UK’s Achilles heel,” said Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the trade body, adding that the UK was the only major economy not to have one.
“If we want to not only address our regional inequality, but also compete on a global stage, we urgently need a national industrial strategy. . . We cannot continue to shift from one initiative to another without placing them in the context of a larger, long-term plan that has consensus and is independently monitored.”
Further delay in developing a policy risked Britain missing out on a critical green investment given the US Grant Scale available and the EU plans to do the same.
Make UK said ministers should set up an independent inquiry in the form of a Royal Commission as a starting point for developing a new plan. It should also reinstate the Industrial Strategy Council, which was also axed in 2021, backed by statutory status, with the job of monitoring the new strategy.
He also said that the responsibility for policy coordination through government should be delivered to the Cabinet Office instead of the business department.
In the past, governments have appointed Royal Commissions to address high-profile social concerns or matters of national importance, such as gambling or long-term care for the elderly, but the procedure has fallen out of favor in recent years.
Make UK argued that a Royal Commission would ensure that a long-term industrial strategy was implemented and that it would be less affected by the short-term political decisions of whichever party was in government.
In a report released alongside its recommendations on Tuesday, the trade body highlighted the piecemeal approach taken by successive governments, which have drawn up six growth plans since 2012. In addition, the department responsible for managing industrial strategy has been reshuffled five times. in the last 15 years. years and the same number of business secretaries during the same period.
Nearly 60 percent of manufacturers said the government has never had a strong vision for manufacturing, while two-thirds said the lack of an industrial strategy was hindering access to skills, according to the report.
Eight in 10 companies believed that the absence of a strategy put them at a competitive disadvantage compared to other manufacturing nations.
The manufacturing industry last year accounted for about 9 percent of total economic output. Make UK said it wanted the sector’s contribution to grow to 15 per cent of GDP, which would add a further £142bn to annual output, creating high-value, high-skill jobs.
The government said it had “shown a clear strategy for UK manufacturing with a range of schemes that ensure sectors from automotive to aerospace and low carbon technologies have access to finance, talent and the infrastructure they need.