Theresa May to promise to take action for British industry
Prime Minister Theresa May is to unveil a new, more interventionist, industrial strategy on Monday, designed to boost the post-Brexit UK economy.
The government will be “stepping up to a new, active role”, Mrs May said.
She will launch the new strategy at her first regional cabinet meeting, to be held in the north-west of England.
Broadband, transport and energy are highlighted in a bid to “align central government infrastructure investment with local growth priorities”.
The 10-point plan involves:
- Investing in science, research and innovation
- Developing skills
- Upgrading infrastructure
- Supporting business to start and grow
- Improving government procurement
- Encouraging trade and inward investment
- Delivering affordable energy and clean growth
- Cultivating world-leading sectors
- Driving growth across the whole country
- Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places
A green paper will set out ways the government can provide support to businesses by addressing regulatory barriers, agreeing trade deals and helping to establish institutions that encourage innovation and skills development.
Mrs May also plans to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, digital skills and numeracy, including extending specialist maths schools, while £170m will be invested in creating new institutes of technology.
Business leaders welcomed the plan, which also aims to boost life sciences and low-emission vehicles.
Smart energy, robotics, artificial intelligence and 5G mobile network technology are some of the areas that could receive support through a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, according to Downing Street.
The fund is part of £4.7bn in additional funding for research and development first announced in November.
Business Secretary Greg Clark told the BBC that the government was staging a “consultation on what should be our priorities for a long-term industrial strategy”.
He said the UK had some of the best universities in the world, but people had not had the alternative to learn practical skills.
“For many years, we have not been as good on technical education as our competitors,” he said.
Welcoming the new strategy, the director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “It must help fix the country’s productivity problems and remove the regional inequalities that have dogged our country for generations, having a positive impact on living standards, wages and the future opportunities of many people.”
Business will get a chance to consult on the industrial strategy proposals. The Institute of Directors said the strategy must concentrate on skills and infrastructure, not cash injections.
“It is painful to watch established businesses fail, but the government should be very sceptical of its power to keep struggling companies going through cash payments,” said James Sproule, director of policy at the IoD.
“Instead, the focus should be on retraining anyone who becomes unemployed, so that communities can adapt to changes in the economy.”
But Labour’s shadow business secretary, Clive Lewis, questioned how much money the government was investing in the strategy: “We await further detail, but what’s been announced so far will fall far short of getting us back to where we were in 2010, let alone equip our economy for the challenges of the 21st Century.”
The government has stated its aim of reducing the UK economy’s reliance on the services sector, especially financial services, over the past few years, leading to former Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to create a Northern Powerhouse.
The challenge has come into greater focus as the UK faces negotiating a new economic relationship with the European Union.