Business Secretary Vince Cable has been urged to appoint a dedicated Minister for Manufacturing, as MPs and business leaders welcomed the Government’s new industrial strategy.
Dr Cable announced a range of measures including a new Government-backed bank to provide capital to small businesses and £67 million in grants for businesses to help them create apprenticeships.
BMW, which has an engine plant in Coleshill, Warwickshire, will be one of the first businesses to benefit, after receiving funding for a project to encourage more women to train as engineers.
But ministers were urged to do more for manufacturing by a cross-party group of MPs led by Warwick and Leamington MP Chirs White.
Mr White chairs the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group, which published a report urging the Government to create a Minister for Manufacturing “to be the voice for manufacturing within government and to carry out the policies necessary to support the sector.”
The group, which also includes MPs Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull), Richard Burden (Lab Birmingham Northfield) and Adrian Bailey (Lab West Bromwich West), said in the report: “The creation of a Minister for Manufacturing would ensure a more regular dialogue between industry, trade unions and government on issues affecting industry and ensure that there is a constant flow of ideas and information from the sector and policy makers on how we can support growth.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr White backed the industrial strategy but asked Dr Cable to meet the group to discuss its ideas.
The Business Secretary told him: “I am certainly very happy to meet the group. A key part of the industrial strategy relates to manufacturing.
“However, it is important to stress that the modern economy is much more complex than the old sub-divisions. Much of the value in manufacturing these days derives from what are called intangibles – intellectual property, for example, and IT work.
“The services sector in its modern form contributes massively to our economy, which is why one of the areas we want to focus on is services that can be sold overseas and that have a large knowledge or technology component.”
A new government-backed bank is intended to give growth a much-needed boost by improving the availability of finance for firms that want to expand, Dr Cable said.
“We have a chronic dearth of long-term patient capital,” he said.
Further details about the bank are set to be announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s forthcoming Autumn Statement, but the institution is likely to work through non-bank lenders and so-called challenger banks outside of the big five high street institutions.
Mr Cable said the Government’s industrial strategy would give companies the “certainty” they need for long-term development.
Responding to the announcements, Paul Everitt, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “It is right that the strategy recognises the value of every sector of the economy and works with key industries, through a government-backed ‘business bank’, to increase investment in R&D, skills and capital equipment.”
Speaking in the Commons, Nadhim Zahawi (Con Stratford-on-Avon) said: “I applaud the Secretary of State for the work he has done with the automotive sector.”