I thought I was banging my head against a brick wall … but suddenly the penny has dropped with both the Government and the Opposition.
I have so long been arguing in the Birmingham Post and the House of Lords for an industrial strategy and a business bank.
Several months back this column declared: “The Government is yet to deliver on Business Secretary Vince Cable’s vision of an industrial policy for the future.
“Unfortunately, they have decided to pay only lip service.”
Finally we have a strategy intended to inspire the sectors we are good at – automotive, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and energy.
And we have the promise of a small business bank which could operate through so-called alternative providers. Now all we need is the Government to deliver. But will they?
They are good at rhetoric but are we going to see a plan of action?
It hasn’t happened with the much-vaunted Regional Growth Fund – only this week the Public Accounts select committee revealed that just £60 million had so far been allocated of a possible £1.4 billion, a situation described as “scandalous” by its chairman Margaret Hodge.
It is totally bizarre – they announce the money is to be spent and then don’t give it to the companies which need it.
And that is a worry for Local Enterprise Partnerships who have made a reasonable start yet will prove less credible if their effectiveness is brought into question.
The industrial strategy announcement is very brave of Cable because the Tories generally don’t want anything which smacks of intervention by the Government.
I suspect it will be built around ensuring that technology, R&D, the universities and skills all prosper. And minimising bureaucracy will come into it. I can’t see there being new money of any significance.
As for the bank, nothing will happen before the next General Election. I have just got back from a trip to China where they seem to be terrified that growth has ‘slumped’ to a mere seven per cent. So they have scheduled a £150 billion infrastructure spend for next year.
HS2, roads and airports, perhaps we too need to take a lead from such an amazing economy.
* Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group