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APMG host roundtable on the Industrial Strategy and the future of British manufacturing with Shadow Business Minister, Bill Esterson

APMG host roundtable on the Industrial Strategy and the future of British manufacturing with Shadow Business Minister, Bill Esterson

13th September 2018

On Thursday 13th September, the APMG brought together leading manufacturers and policy makers from across the sector to discuss the UK’s industrial strategy and the state of British manufacturing.

The breakfast roundtable was chaired by David Seall, Advisor to the Industry, Technology and Innovation group at Policy Connect. The keynote speaker was Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Minister for Business and International Trade. In a wide-ranging discussion, Mr Esterson spoke about the Official Opposition’s approach to industrial policy and the importance of improving productivity, addressing the current account deficit, developing modern supply chains, and investing in tradition areas of manufacturing strength (automotive, aerospace and pharmacy) as well as emerging sectors such as autonomous vehicles. He also reiterated Labour’s commitment to establishing a National Investment Bank, promoting domestic bids for government procurement projects, and working closely with SMEs to encourage regional economic growth outside London and the South East. He held up the Small Business Administration, the American federal agency, as a model for future government support for entrepreneurship.

“What is the Industrial Strategy actually for?”

Lee Hopley, Chief Economist at EEF, followed Mr Esterson. She noted the importance of properly defining the purpose of the industrial strategy and ensuring that the policy is supported across all areas of government. There was a common view from across the panel regarding this perspective – especially with regard to the importance of investment in skills and infrastructure. Hopley also reiterated the clarity and continuity  as being central to the demands of businesses to support day-to-day planning and investment.

This perspective was shared by Chris White, Director of the Institute for Industrial Strategy at King’s College London. An engineer and former Chair of the APMG, Mr White added that a successful industrial strategy could only be achieved there was a broad level of consensus about its key objectives across the political landscape, as well as between government departments. 

“Exports start at home”

Finally, Will McGarrigle of the CBI discussed the importance of linking export strategy to industrial strategy. He said that the government’s recent announcement of growing exports from 30 percent to 35 percent of the UK’s GDP as a positive one, noting the importance of this being shared across all sectors of the economy, rather than being purely service-led. He added that up to 15 percent of all UK firms that could export did not do so, as well as expressing a view that policy makers could make better use of the UK’s soft-power and international reputation to promote international trade.

A positive discussion followed, with all members agreeing on the need to establish the Industrial Strategy Council as a matter of priority. There was also a consensus about the need for the Industrial Strategy to have a degree of consensus between changes of Minister and Administration, as well as acknowledging the strengths of the British manufacturing sector, despite the challenges of low relative productivity and Brexit.  

Further events by the APMG will take place over the coming months to ensure that these views are taken into account by policy makers from across the political spectrum.