Industrial Strategy

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 15th March 2012.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 10:30 am, 15th March 2012

Whether his Department plans to develop an industrial strategy; and if he will make a statement. [R]

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Yes, I am developing an industrial policy, and I will continue to work closely with my ministerial colleagues on that important work. In speeches on 27 February and 6 March, I set out what that policy should be and where our future industrial capabilities should lie.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

In his leaked letter last week, the Secretary of State said:

“Where we know big investment decisions are going to be made…we need to put in place a strategy actively to plan how we will strengthen the supply chain”.

Does he therefore agree that a good start would be to work towards ensuring that the new Ministry of Defence tankers are built in Britain, not in Korea, and that our new nuclear reactors are made in Sheffield, not in France?

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

A great deal of progress is being made in developing British supply chains that were whittled away to a disastrous extent with the decline of manufacturing under the last Government. If the hon. Lady looks at what is happening in the car and aerospace industries, for example, she will find that a lot of supply chains are coming back to the UK. As for her last point, on the nuclear industry, I think she is aware that the company that she represents is a regional growth fund recipient.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Labour, Manchester Central

The Secretary of State will not know this, but a high-tech company in my constituency that spawned out of Manchester university was told by its would-be venture capitalists that unless it moved from Manchester to within the golden triangle of Oxbridge and London, it would not obtain finance. Will he look into that financial gap, which has been around for a long time and prevents the dynamic growth of industry, particularly in the northern regions?

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

As it happens, I was in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency yesterday, and I met groups of businesses with similar concerns. He is right that there is a long-standing financing gap, particularly for small and medium-sized companies looking for risk capital. The business growth fund, which is a private sector initiative rather than Government money, is already beginning to fill that gap. It is headquartered in Birmingham but, I think, has substantial outreach into Manchester.