This is a hugely important moment for the United Kingdom—a moment when we must prepare a new strategy to earn a prosperous living in the years ahead. Leaving the European Union allows, and requires, Britain to make long-term decisions about our economic future. We will, of course, be ambitious in the upcoming negotiations and will secure the best possible access for firms to trade with, and operate in, the European market. While the terms of trade with other economies is important, so is the competitiveness of our own economy. That is why the Government are committed to a modern industrial strategy, whose objective is to improve living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country. Today’s Green Paper is part of an open dialogue to develop that strategy as the enduring foundation of an economy that works for everyone.
We start from a position of considerable strength. We are the fifth biggest economy in the world, despite having the 22nd highest population. We have achieved higher levels of employment than ever before in our history —in fact, 2.7 million more than in 2010. We have businesses, research institutions and cultural achievements at the very forefront of global excellence. For all those reasons, we attract investment and talented individuals from around the world, but there are challenges that Britain must face up to, now and in the years ahead.
The first challenge is to build on those strengths and extend excellence into the future. British excellence in key technologies, professions, research disciplines and institutions provides us with crucial competitive advantages, but we cannot take them for granted. If other countries invest more in research and development and we do not, we cannot expect to keep, let alone extend, our technological lead in key sectors, or the world-beating performance of our universities. The same goes for our record as Europe’s leading destination for inward investment, or our position as a centre of international finance.
Our competitors are not standing still. They are upgrading infrastructure networks and reforming systems of governance, and therefore we too must strive for improvement. In industrial sectors, from automotive and aerospace to financial and professional services and the creative industries, the UK has a global reputation, but the competition for new investment is fierce and unending. The conditions that have allowed UK investment destinations to succeed include the availability of supportive research programmes, relevant skills in local labour markets, and capable supply chains. If our success is to continue, those foundations must be maintained and strengthened.
The second challenge is to ensure that every place meets its potential by working to close the gap between our best-performing companies, industries, places and people and those that are less productive. For all the global excellence of the UK’s best companies, industries and places, we have too many that lie too far behind the leaders. That is why, on average, workers in France, Germany and the United States produce about as much in four days as UK workers do in five. It is also why, despite having the most prosperous local economy in northern Europe—in central London—we also have 12 of the 20 poorest among our closest neighbours. We must address those long “tails” of underperformance if we are to build a strong economy and ensure sustainable growth in living standards. To do so will provide a huge opportunity for the whole nation to benefit from improved productivity—that is to say, earning power—in all parts of the country.
The third challenge is to make the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or grow a business. A fatal flaw of 1970s-style industrial strategies was their dominant focus on existing industries and the companies within them—and then mostly the biggest firms. Too often, they became strategies of incumbency. It is worth noting that many of the most important companies in the world today did not even exist 25 years ago. Unlike those past strategies, our industrial strategy must be about creating the right conditions for new and growing enterprise to thrive, not about protecting the position of incumbents.
In order to meet those challenges, we have identified 10 pillars around which the strategy is structured: that is, 10 areas of action to drive growth right across the economy and in every part of the country. They are to invest in science, research and innovation; to develop our skills further; to upgrade our infrastructure; to support businesses and help them to start and grow; to improve public procurement; to encourage trade and investment; to deliver affordable energy and clean growth; to cultivate world-leading sectors; to drive growth across all parts of the country; and to create the right institutions to bring together sectors and places.
In all those areas, the Government are making strategic decisions to keep British business on the front foot. For instance, we have given the go-ahead for major upgrades to our infrastructure, such as Hinkley Point C, Heathrow and High Speed 2, and, in the autumn statement, for the biggest increase in research and development spending since 1979.
In conjunction with today’s Green Paper, we are launching a range of further measures. They include: a new approach to enabling existing and emerging sectors to grow through sector deals, with reviews taking place regarding life sciences, ultra-low emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation, nuclear and the creative industries; deciding on the priority challenges and technologies for the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund; and an overhaul of technical education, including £170 million of capital funding to set up new institutes of technology to deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematical subjects.
In a world containing uncertainty, public policy should aim to be a countervailing force for stability, not an additional source of unpredictability. So our aim is to establish an industrial strategy for the long-term—to provide a policy framework against which major public and private sector investment decisions can be made with confidence. It is therefore vital that the full development of our industrial strategy should take place with—and not just for—British enterprise. The full involvement of innovators, investors, job creators, workers and consumers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is the only basis on which we can produce an enduring programme of action. That is why this is a Green Paper —a set of proposals for discussion and consideration, and an invitation to all to contribute collaboratively to their development. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, on this occasion.
Today would be a momentous day if it was indeed the day that the Conservative party finally broke free from the free-market fundamentalism that has dogged it, and the country, for decades. Will the Secretary of State tell us whether the “new, active” role for the state means that the Government are abandoning the approach of the last Prime Minister and Chancellor—and of the Secretary of State’s own predecessor, who even banned the term “industrial strategy” from the previous Department? If so, I will make it clear at the outset that we welcome that, alongside the good intentions set out in today’s Green Paper. The question is whether the details will live up to them.
For example, action on skills will be widely welcomed, given the challenges presented by automation and the pace of technological challenge and change, but this Government have already cut adult education by over £1 billion. Can the Secretary of State explain how £170 million of one-off capital spending can even begin to close the skills gap?
Nor will the Government themselves be equipped to support an industrial strategy if the Secretary of State’s predecessor’s cuts are implemented. Can he confirm that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2020 project has now been thrown in the bin, along with the rest of his predecessor’s legacy?
The Secretary of State rightly sets the goal of developing a competitive edge in the industries of the future, but how does he reconcile this with his Government’s plan to privatise the UK Green Investment Bank? If the Secretary of State is serious about tackling our productivity crisis, will he go beyond piecemeal offers and finally bring investment in R and D and infrastructure into line with the OECD average? Will the Secretary of State promise a fundamental rethink of business rates, which many businesses say would help them much more than any other single measure? Does the Secretary of State agree that a successful industrial strategy must include partnership and co-operation with the workforce? Yet the Green Paper does not mention trade unions once; surely now is the time to promise that the toxic Trade Union Act 2016 will be repealed.
Steel is a critical sector for our future economy, but it is mentioned only once in the Green Paper. Will the Secretary of State commit to implementing the recommendations on procurement and supply chains contained in the all-party group on steel and metal related industries report out today?
We cannot limit our focus to high-tech manufacturing. An industrial strategy that narrows its focus to a few chosen sectors will let down the majority of businesses in this country and the people they employ. So can the Secretary of State tell us what this industrial strategy will do for small and medium-sized enterprises, who are huge employers, and for financial services, which are our main exporters, as well as for foundation industries, or for the retail outlets that shape our high streets up and down the country?
Finally, there is a glaring inconsistency between the noble aims of this Green Paper and the threats made by the Prime Minister to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven if she fails in her Brexit negotiations. Until now, the industrial strategy has seemingly consisted of one deal, made in secret, with Nissan. If the Nissan deal did not last six months, how can businesses be confident of the other commitments in this Green Paper?
It is often said, correctly, that an industrial strategy is a long-term project and that, if it is to work, it must outlast particular Governments. With this in mind, I can pledge our support for its broad aims from this side of the Chamber, but I feel compelled to ask whether the Secretary of State can count on the same support from his own side. When we previously debated the industrial strategy here, one of his own hon. Friends said that they had two problems with it: one was “industrial”, the other was “strategy”. I hope that he faces down such attitudes, because now is not the time for half measures. The BBC reported this morning that the Government wished to be in the driving seat but not have two hands on the wheel. I know that Conservative Members do not much like safety legislation, but that is not an approach I would recommend, especially if the Government keep making U-turns. If the Secretary of State finds himself isolated in the coming months, my party will be happy to help. We, too, are ambitious for a proper industrial strategy, but it will only succeed if the means match the ends.
It is true that an industrial strategy wants to help all parts of the United Kingdom, and I look forward to engagement with colleagues from all parts of the House who wish to represent the views of their constituents. I am relieved that the hon. Gentleman has given his grudging support for this statement, given that the last time he appeared at the Dispatch Box, he said:
“Is it simply a case of ‘public good, private bad’? That is what we think on the Opposition Benches”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 619, c. 319.]
That would send a disastrous signal to investors in this country, and I am pleased to be on the other side of that argument.
The hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions. Our commitment to transforming technical education has been widely welcomed by the business community up and down the country today. Also, it is highly unusual for a Green Paper to commit any funds. This is about the consultation on the direction, and the fact that the Chancellor has announced £170 million for new institutes of technology is a great step forward. The hon. Gentleman asked about increasing the level of research and development. He might have missed what I said about the Chancellor having committed to the biggest increase in research and development since 1979. I recall that the period since then has included several years of a Labour Government, so by implication this is a bigger increase than any that took place during Labour’s 13 years in office. He also asked about business rates. We are legislating this very afternoon to introduce 100% retention of business rates by local councils so that the interests of local businesses and councils can be aligned.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the workforce. I was clear in my statement that the consultation would involve employees as well, and I am looking forward to a roundtable with the TUC and its member organisations. On steel, he will see in the Green Paper an approach to sector deals. I have already met the chief executives of the steel companies and I am about to meet representatives of the trade unions again. I look forward to that being one of the deals that is being put forward.
The hon. Gentleman asked about involving small businesses. The chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses has said today:
“FSB has appreciated being part of the discussions with the business secretary…to help shape the Industrial Strategy.”
He said that the proposals
“fit well with the UK small business community.”
As far as the hon. Gentleman’s position on the fiscal arithmetic goes, he should reflect on the fact that the first foundation of any credible industrial strategy is confidence in the public finances, which were left in such a disastrous state during the time that Labour was in government. The hon. Gentleman made a point about unanimity of purpose. We are having a consultation on the industrial strategy, but I understand from reports in recent days that he is having a consultation with himself about whether he can support his own party’s position on triggering article 50. We will be looking forward to the responses to our consultation from all parts of the House as we form a strategy for the years ahead.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the intelligent approach set out in the Green Paper, building on what has been achieved over the past six years but taking it much further in skills, science and, in particular, the northern powerhouse.
The university sector is a jewel in the British economy’s crown. The Higher Education and Research Bill will open up the sector to new entrants, just as it was opened up in the 19th and 20th centuries through the arrival of London University and the red-brick universities. The Bill now faces significant opposition in the House of Lords from people who represent the existing players in the sector. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that he will see off that opposition?
My right hon. Friend will see in the approach we are setting out a vigorous continuation of many of the measures, such as the northern powerhouse, that he championed in his time in government that are making such a big difference in the north and other parts of the country. I can confirm that with the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, my hon. Friend Joseph Johnson, and colleagues in the House of Lords we will drive the reforms that have proved so successful in the past when expanding the institutions that contribute to our excellence in higher education. The standard and standing of higher education in this country has never been higher, which is a reflection of the soundness of the policies that have been pursued in recent years.
I give this proposal a cautious welcome. It is honest in some ways in its reflection of the state of the economy. In many ways it is brutally honest about some problems, including regional disparity and productivity. Likewise, it recognises some successes, such as the automotive and aviation sectors and, on page 90, Aberdeen as an oil and gas hub. The problems are not new, so how will the Secretary of State ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated? How will he ensure that existing industries are not sacrificed in the quest to support new ones?
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the allocation of new research and development money will be in addition to anything that would have come from the European Union and that he will provide long-term commitments to match EU funding? How much of that R and D spend will be outwith London and south-east England? Imagine how much worse regional disparities would have been without EU structural funds? Will he commit to long-term replacements for those funds?
On renewables and carbon capture and storage, the right hon. Gentleman will be unsurprised that I am a little disappointed by the lack of ambition in an industry that will be worth hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars in the near future. Will he consider a sectoral deal for renewables? If so, will he work with the Scottish Government on how that could be done in Scotland? Access to finance is identified as a problem, and I share the concerns about the green investment bank. It is short-sighted to sell it off when this key sector needs access to funding and when the bank is the perfect vehicle for that.
How will the consultation process work with the devolved Governments? However good this industrial strategy may be, we must accept that the biggest threat to the economies of both Scotland and the UK is lack of access to the single market and to skilled people that comes through our EU membership. Will the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider the Scottish Government’s plan that would see Scotland maintain its membership of the European single market?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his thoughtful remarks. I am impressed that he has reached page 90 already, which shows his diligence. He says that we are brutally honest, but if we are to look forward and have an industrial strategy that reflects the challenges we face, we need to be clear-eyed. On technical education levels and the imbalances, some areas are prosperous and some can catch up, so it is right to be ambitious in that.
The research and development money that the Chancellor announced in the autumn statement is separate from whatever might be decided on the European funds. It was independently granted and is available to universities and research institutions. The consultation on how that money is spent is part of the consultation on this exercise, and the money is for research and development. One of the points we make is that we have often been excellent at producing brilliant new ideas but less successful at commercialising them. Pushing further on how we translate good ideas into practice is an important feature of addressing that.
The hon. Gentleman mentions renewables, which of course are important in Scotland. The emissions reduction plan, which is currently being prepared, will particularly address that but, on the green economy, a chapter of the Green Paper has a big commitment to doing what we can to make sure that we obtain industrial advantage from the investments we are making in green technology.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman says that the biggest threat to the economy is the exit from the European Union. The United Kingdom has been very successful in recent years, and I would say that the biggest threat to that is if the successful alliance of our nations in the United Kingdom were broken up by the independence of Scotland.
There is so much to welcome in this very thoughtful report, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his team on delivering it. Will he say a little more about how the Government’s unprecedented investment in infrastructure will deliver export growth? I am sure he will not be surprised, but he may be disappointed, to know that our export potential, particularly from our rail industry, is far outstripped by that of our neighbours in continental Europe. We are spending a lot of money. How can we turn that money into exports and jobs?
From her experience in the Department for Transport, my hon. Friend knows how important it is to make connections between places—it is an important means of underpinning growth. She will be aware that, through the national infrastructure fund, funding will rise by 60% from this year to 2022, which is a huge investment, and an appropriate one to make sure that the quality of our infrastructure keeps pace with the investments that our competitors are making.
I warmly welcome and support the Government’s endorsement of a long-term, interventionist industrial strategy. I hope the strategy will play an active role in ensuring that workers are upskilled and receive higher wages and that British firms can scale up and become more enterprising, more competitive and more productive.
What is different this time from previous iterations of industrial strategy, including industrial strategies for which he was a Cabinet Minister? What will be the short-term, medium-term and long-term metrics by which the success or failure of this industrial strategy will be evaluated?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. He says that it is an interventionist strategy, and it is true that the Government should be engaged with the economy to make sure that we have the right conditions for success, but I also point out that openness for competition to have its full run in our economy is vital to our success. As Chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, he will reflect that point. I look forward to the Select Committee’s inquiry on the strategy.
The hon. Gentleman asks how the strategy is different from its predecessors, and I would suggest two ways in particular. First, as he will have observed, many of the themes that I have discussed are not about investing in particular companies or subsidising particular businesses but are cross-cutting. The themes are horizontal in that they look at skills right across the economy, infrastructure —looking at the importance of place and the differences between places—science and research. These are cross-economy measures, which is a different approach from those taken in the past.
Secondly, a lot of efforts in previous industrial policy were correctly about innovation, but they concentrated just on new discoveries and new inventions. That is important—as I have made clear, we need to extend our excellence into the future—but there is a big opportunity to make differences for the companies that follow and in the regions that are not competing at the top level. If we can really increase productivity there, we can make a big difference to the whole economy. That has not been the focus of previous industrial strategies.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a bold and ambitious statement and give him a unique, once-in-a-lifetime chance to get his new training plans for technical colleges off to a tremendous start? In Haywards Heath in my constituency there is a sixth-form college that was bankrupted by Labour’s ferocious education cuts and by corporate governance that would have done credit to Al Capone. It will shortly be empty, and would be a perfect starting place for one of his excellent new colleges.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that early pitch. He highlights the important point that we should have throughout the country a better and more reliable ability to provide technical education to those who can benefit from it. Many jobs are available in West Sussex but are not accessible for people who do not have the right skills. Our plan will help to solve that.
I welcome the Government finally accepting that we have a skills challenge in this country, particularly with the long tail of under-achievement. How does the Secretary of State square that with the huge cuts faced by further and adult education over the past six and a half years of his Government? Why is there not more emphasis on what can be done to close the productivity gap by investing in childcare and getting more women back to work, which is not even mentioned in his report?
I shall say two things to the hon. Lady. First, as I said to Clive Lewis, the Conservative-led Government’s task in restoring sanity to the public finances was absolutely foundational to a successful industrial strategy. Secondly, she will be aware that this Government have been particularly innovative in extending childcare to many people who previously were not able to access it. That is an important foundation on which we build.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of the highly impressive propositions on technical education in the Green Paper owe their origin to the work undertaken by our hon. Friend Nick Boles when he drew up the skills plan that was laid before the House in July? Does he further agree that the success of specialist maths schools at King’s College London and the University of Exeter is an example that other universities should follow if they hope to hang on to their current high level of tuition fees?
I endorse very warmly the due acknowledgement that my right hon. Friend makes to our hon. Friend Nick Boles, who made a massive contribution. In fact, I texted him yesterday to flag up the fact that many of the proposals in the Green Paper owe their origin to him. We wish him well in his recovery.
I commend very warmly the examples of the maths schools mentioned by my right hon. Friend. To expand maths schools throughout the country so that people with a real flair for maths can be pushed further and be equipped to go even higher in their ambitions is a fantastic thing. Whether in Exeter or London, that is a good template for others to follow.
My hon. Friend Lucy Powell pointed out that one of the things that have held back industrial strategies in this country for decades has been the skills gap. There is mention in the Green Paper of an overhaul of technical and vocational education; what this country needs is a cultural change—a shift to valuing technical, vocational and skills education as highly as academic education. Until that changes, the Secretary of State will not achieve what he wants, however much we all want him to.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s analysis. I hope he will join us in making that change and approach this matter with a spirit of optimism and determination to make the change that the country needs.
I welcome this common-sense statement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the pillars will provide the ideal opportunity to enable regions to use their assets to the best effect for a more balanced UK economy, and to further grow the midlands engine for growth?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. We are one of the most centralised countries in the world, but it is patently the case that our levels of prosperity are not uniformly high. We should learn from other countries and from what has worked well when we have devolved powers and given people who know what will make a difference locally a better ability to take those decisions.
The Minister is right to make upgrading infrastructure a pillar of his industrial strategy, and I welcome the investment in HS2, but how can he claim to be providing greater certainty and a clear long-term direction when the east midlands’ top transport priority—electrification of the midland main line—has been paused, unpaused, delayed by four years and now dropped altogether? Does he not understand—this follows up on the previous question—that this uncertainty damages our economy, damages the east midlands rail industry and harms the region’s potential to grow exports?
I expected the hon. Lady to welcome the commitment to upgrading infrastructure across the country. This is a Green Paper that is proposing priorities for the years ahead, and I had hoped that she would welcome that and the fact that the Chancellor has provided a 60% increase in infrastructure investment, which will benefit the east midlands and other parts of the country.
I strongly welcome this Green Paper, particularly three elements of it: Mark Walport’s battery review; the special sector deal for new ultra-low emission vehicles; and the considerable efforts to create a hub for autonomous vehicles. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those three together should give the UK the opportunity to become one of the world’s leading producers of the electric and autonomous vehicles that we will all be driving in 20 or 30 years from now?
I do agree with my right hon. Friend. An industrial strategy offers us the opportunity to align policies that reinforce each other. We have some of the world’s best researchers in energy storage, and one of the world’s most effective, efficient and innovative automotive sectors. We are one of the leaders in renewable energy through offshore wind. If we bring them together, one will reinforce the other to give us this chance to be a world leader in a set of technologies that, under any reasonable estimate, seems likely to be taken up around the world in the future.
The last thing we need is 10% tariffs imposed on autonomous vehicles. The Secretary of State is right to make the point that we have been the leading destination in Europe for overseas investment, but much of that was from companies outside Europe wanting to gain access to the single market, which the Prime Minister has now told us we are going to leave. Does he believe that the UK can remain Europe’s leading destination for inward investment outside the single market?
Yes, I do. I said at the beginning of my statement that, as a Government and, hopefully, a country that believe in free trade, we want to have the best possible access to the single market. We continue to be a very attractive destination, but we want to be even more attractive, which is why we have set out our commitment to upgrading science and research, building better technical skills, and improving our infrastructure. Those are investments and policies that will enhance the reputation and attractiveness of the British economy.
When reviewing procurement, will the Government ensure that, under this new strategy, we will find all those areas where British companies can supply goods better and cheaper and give them the contracts? At the moment, we are importing large quantities of military vehicles, building materials, steel for submarines and medical equipment, all of which we could make competitively here if we had an intelligent Government customer.
My right hon. Friend is right. He will see that there are various proposals on procurement that I hope will have his support. One in particular opens up Government procurement to smaller and medium-sized enterprises, which, too often, have found that the bureaucracy associated with procurement regimes has kept them off the list. That is something that we can reform.
The Green Paper rightly identifies the crucial role that better connectivity to regional airports could play in growing economies and highlights the vital importance of the Emirates route from Newcastle airport, which has significantly increased exports from the north-east. What discussions is the Secretary of State having with Treasury colleagues about the impact on airports such as Newcastle of devolving air passenger duty to the Scottish Government?
In the context of a Green Paper on industrial strategy, I will await the representations from the hon. Lady, but I am pleased that she acknowledges the emphasis that we have placed on connections to every region of the country—not just by road and rail, but through airports—and the importance of establishing links to other nations with which we can have good trading relationships.
How much priority does my right hon. Friend give to the establishment of a digital railway? Will he encourage Network Rail in its plans to bring this technology to the Great Eastern main line, and hopefully to the West Anglia main line as well, because then the new trains that are on order could be equipped to take advantage of this in advance, rather than retrospectively at greater expense?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the proposals in the Green Paper that I hope will have his support through the consultation.
The Green Paper rightly focuses on productivity, but there is one area of infrastructure where Britain lags enormously behind all our competitors: the cost of childcare. Childcare costs more in Britain than it does in every other OECD country apart from Switzerland—it takes up over 40% of the average wage—yet it is hardly mentioned in the Green Paper. That is the way to liberate the talent of women. What is he going to do about it?
The Green Paper invites comments and proposals, so I look forward to seeing the right hon. Lady’s response to it. As I said earlier, the Government have taken very seriously the importance of childcare in allowing women and men to return to work in good jobs, and we have made great progress. I will be interested to read her response to the consultation.
I welcomed the opportunity to join the Secretary of State on Friday for his visit to the Warwick Manufacturing Group, an institution that represents many important elements of this industrial strategy. Does he agree that the midlands can play a leading role in the development of such a strategy, as it is home to world-class research, advanced manufacturing and a skilled workforce?
I agree with my hon. Friend. One of the things that I found striking when visiting the National Automotive Innovation Centre, a fantastic centre that is being built, is the fact that as well as having research and development facilities that will be available to large companies and small challenger firms, there is on the same site a school that will take in 1,000 apprentices a year to equip them with the skills the motor industry across the west midlands can benefit from. That is a very good example of how research and development can tie in with the agenda of driving improved standards of technical skills.
If the Secretary of State is serious about building an industrial strategy that works for the whole country, and that encourages and maximises the opportunity for research and innovation, there must be space in it for the development of marine renewable energy—wave and tidal power. World-leading work on that is being done in my constituency at the European Marine Energy Centre. Will he visit and see for himself the way in which our island communities can help to build the strategy that he says he wants to create?
I would be delighted to visit the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency—it is quite a time commitment, but I am sure it would be worth it. He will see when he reads the Green Paper that there are a number of sources of support for innovation. Obviously, in a competitive way, the research and development funding is available for scientists and researchers to bid for. There is also a chapter on the green economy that makes suggestions on how we can ensure that we get industrial advantage as well as keeping costs low for renewables. Both routes might be applicable for wave and tidal technologies.
I have been calling for ambitious, bold and visionary redevelopment plans for the Rugeley B power station site to attract businesses that will create highly skilled jobs, so I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and the Green Paper. Does he agree that the new, modern industrial strategy will provide the framework and conditions to help deliver this vision for Rugeley?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. I remember visiting that site with her, and it has great potential not just to be a home for the start-up businesses that are very important in our economy, but as a place where technical skills can be imparted to the next generation of her constituents so that they can have good, well-paid and satisfying jobs.
I welcome some of the things in the Green Paper on the future of industry and our strategy moving forward, but to tackle those things, we have to secure what industry we have now. On Friday, Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive officer of Nissan, said he was going to revisit the competitiveness of the plant in Sunderland. What is the Minister’s view on that and on securing the jobs that already exist in Sunderland?
The decision to back Sunderland and to build the two new models here was a significant moment for her constituents and for the country. It is true that all investors, whether domestic or international, constantly look to make sure that they are competitive, and what every page of the Green Paper does is show our determination to make sure that this economy is competitive now and into the future and to take the actions that will make it so.
I welcome this wide-ranging discussion of Government policies at this time, even if the broad buffet of good things outlined will unleash a torrent of insatiable demands, not least from the Davos business leaders jetting back with their Government advisers to barge their way to the table. Will my right hon. Friend therefore assure me that his agenda will be set by entrepreneurs? Will he be honest about the fact that, for every sector that is favoured, other sectors of the economy will be shunned? Will he assure me that he understands that there are no magic levers in his Department saying “raise productivity” or “improve skills”? Those things eluded his predecessors, and they will likely elude him.
Order. What I would say to everybody is that we still have a lot of people standing, and we still have a lot of business. In order to get everybody in, can we have brevity, both in questions and answers?
My hon. Friend is right. The essence of our strategy has to be to support the ability of people to compete and to make life difficult for the incumbents. There are no cosy clubs for the incumbents, and the test of our support in sectors is whether it helps new businesses to emerge. That is extremely important.
The Federation of Small Businesses reported last year that significant numbers of women are starting small businesses and enterprises. Is the Secretary of State not therefore surprised, as I am sure the rest of the House is, that there is no mention of women in this industrial strategy, no mention of inclusion and very little mention of diversity? Will he undertake to review that?
Throughout this document, we want to close the gaps that mean that we do not achieve our full performance, and that is absolutely the case when it comes to the position of women at the highest levels in science, for example, and in research. As the Minister in the Department, I have been successful in the past in driving the appointments under my gift to increase the proportion of women at the top level. However, the hon. Lady is absolutely right that, when there is under-representation of people of talent, the whole economy suffers, and that should be corrected.
I strongly welcome today’s statement and the consultation paper. When we visit large innovative manufacturers such as JCB, Toyota and Airbus, they all speak about the importance of the relationship with their local further education colleges. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the objectives of the strategy should be to replicate examples of excellence and to drive up standards in the FE sector so that even more workers and employers share in a picture of world-class skills education?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the proposals on which we are consulting is to have much better connections between local employers and further education to make sure that the skills that are being provided are those that can be taken up immediately in these industries.
I very much welcome the statement by the Secretary of State and his indication that he will work across the country, including with the devolved Administrations. On skills and low carbon, he and I both want to see a successful lower-carbon energy sector; in particular, he mentions nuclear. One of the concerns that nuclear workers have is that their conditions are being undermined by this Government. Will he agree to work with me and meet me to discuss this issue, because we need those skills bases to build on for the future?
I take great pleasure in welcoming the character and ambition of this industrial strategy, which is exactly the right direction of travel. I also salute the focus on technical skills. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is very important to create the right pathway through our schools system to these institutions so that we encourage young people to consider from the very start the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths—on which he has focused, because that is a combination that will lead to high wages and high skills?
The Chair of the Education Committee is absolutely right. I hope that he and his Committee might make a contribution to the consultation to help us as we establish precisely that pathway, which starts in school but goes beyond people’s commencement of work, because people often need to retrain and take on new skills during their working life.
I welcome the desire to transform technical education—something of a recurring theme ever since the days of Prince Albert. In trying to help the Secretary of State to make it a success this time, may I ask him to pay greater attention to the 14 to 19-year-olds at university technical colleges like the one at Aston University? Could I persuade him to give the training levy to the newly elected regional mayors, who can then make strategic training decisions that are appropriate to the regions they represent?
The hon. Lady makes two important points. First, as others in the past have recognised, it is vital to recognise the importance of technical education and to improve it, and that is certainly our intention. On the particular proposal that she mentions, if she would care to discuss it with me, we could feed it into the consultation.
Newport has suffered grievously from the neglect of steel, but it is now having a mini-revival with the reopening of the site. Steel does not travel well or cheaply. Does the Secretary of State agree that if a new prosperity for manufacturing industry is to be created, it must be constructed on foundations of steel?
Steel is a very important sector, and it needs to compete in the world in which we find ourselves. The discussions that I have been having with the steel industry are based around a strategy that it is pulling together to make British steel competitive in the years ahead.
The New Model in Technology and Engineering, or Hereford University as it should properly be known, has received tremendous support from the Secretary of State’s Department, but will the £170 million that he has promised in this statement be too late for Herefordshire, as we only have until
My hon. Friend is right to point out the prescience of his friends and neighbours in Herefordshire in making their proposal. This is a very good example of precisely the sort of reform that we need, and I think that its prospects are pretty bright.
There is very much a reference to communities such as those that the hon. Lady mentions. When I talk about parts of the country that have fallen behind the best performing places in terms of productivity, they are the areas and towns that we have in mind—that is essential. It seems to me that one of the foundations for future prosperity is to ensure that the level of skills is higher than it has been for the industries that are expanding. It is particularly in areas such as hers that that transformation can have the greatest effect.
I was delighted earlier today to welcome the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Secretary of State to the marvellous Sci-Tech Daresbury in Weaver Vale to unveil the Government’s industrial strategy for the UK. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the £556 million boost for the northern powerhouse, alongside the £4.7 billion fund for science, technology and innovation, will help to create high-skill, high-wage jobs, helping to close the north-south divide?
Clearly lots of good things happen in Daresbury—[Interruption.] Some better than others, it is pointed out—that is a little mean.
My hon. Friend Graham Evans mentions two things. The first is the devolution through the local growth fund, which is making a big difference across the country by putting more funds in the hands of people with the knowledge of what is needed locally to make a difference. The second, of course, is the big investment in research and development, of which impressive facilities such as that in Daresbury will make good use.
Mobile technology is a very important part of modern infrastructure, but may I urge the Secretary of State to be cautious when he looks at Ofcom’s figures? I suspect that many of us in the Chamber have looked at its maps that say, “Yes! Universal coverage with 3G and 4G—no problems at all,” only to find that the situation on the ground is phenomenally difficult. According to Ofcom, Porth—and this building, for that matter—have perfect access to all four mobile signals, but that is not true, is it?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. When we talk about infrastructure, digital infrastructure, whether it is mobile or broadband, is very important. For businesses that depend on it, it is about dependability and reliability, not theoretical availability. That is very important, so it forms part of our approach.
The Secretary of State rightly pointed out that 1970s’ industrial strategy was flawed by the fact that it almost exclusively focused on big industry. Will he ensure that his industrial strategy does not repeat that mistake by focusing exclusively on large, mature economies at the expense of medium-sized, emerging economies? Together, they represent the future.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the reasons why much of the proposals are cross-cutting, rather than about particular firms. It is also why there is a particular emphasis on helping small businesses to grow and new businesses to be set up.
Steel is a key product for all the infrastructure projects that the Secretary of State mentioned, including Hinkley C, Heathrow and High Speed 2, so I welcome his statement that there is likely to be a sector deal for steel. What does the steel industry need to do to make sure that it achieves that deal?
The steel industry is already embarking on a consideration of how it can plan out its future. I have encouraged it to do that—although it needed no encouragement, because it is keen to do so—and I look forward to seeing the fruits of that during the weeks ahead.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We want to help everywhere to achieve its potential. We know that the prosperity of many rural areas is held back if they do not have good digital connectivity, so that is one of the ambitions that we set out in the Green Paper.
Given the vital nature of steel as a foundation industry, it is pretty astonishing that it gets only one passing mention on about page 100 of this Green Paper. May I commend to the Secretary of State the report “Steel 2020”, which was produced by the all-party group on steel and metal-related industries? May I ask him to read it and perhaps come to a future meeting of the all-party group so that he can explain why steel has not been given a sector deal in the Green Paper, and why it seems to have been airbrushed out of the strategy so far?
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman talks nonsense. I have had very cordial and successful meetings with the steel industry, and it is excited about the prospects of working strategically for its future. I have had the pleasure of attending meetings of the all-party group in the past, and I look forward to doing so again.
Last Tuesday, the Chancellor described the roll-out of ultra-low emission vehicles as “disappointing”. We have 87,000, and the Government want 1.6 million by 2020. Will the Green Paper lay out a reliable road map to enable us to hit that target, as it is also a key part of improving our air quality?
My hon. Friend is right that there are significant opportunities in the roll-out of electric vehicles, not just in the transport sphere but in our energy systems. An electric vehicle is, among other things, a unit for storing electricity. Combining and making connections between these sectors is good for consumers, industry and the resilience of the country.
As the Secretary of State knows, the automotive industry is a major contributor to the greatness of the industrial heartland in the north-east, yet the Prime Minister’s indication that there will be a hard Brexit has made many businesses across the country and in the north-east nervous, including Nissan in my constituency. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the consultation fully addresses those concerns, and supports the success of—and, hopefully, with regard to electric vehicles and batteries, the future expansion of—this vital industry?
The hon. Lady is right to emphasise the importance of being at the cutting edge of research and development in the automotive sector. That is one of the reasons why many car companies find Britain an attractive place to base, which is important. When it comes to the discussions about Brexit, we are clear—the Prime Minister has been clear—that we want to have a free trading relationship with our friends and neighbours in Europe, and that is the way in which we will approach the negotiations.
As you are only too well aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, the north-west of England is very much the hub of the nuclear sector in the UK. Can the Secretary of State shed some light on what thinking he has given to ensuring that people in the north-west of England are the prime beneficiaries of the new supply chain that will be emerging in the nuclear sector?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are huge opportunities through the development of new nuclear, which will require the training of a new generation of nuclear engineers and technicians. It is important that that is in place. There are also opportunities, not just in this country but around the world, to use our expertise in decommissioning to earn income for the UK and to create good jobs. There are big opportunities in the sector with regard to skills and the expansion of industries.
The Prime Minister’s strategy lacks concrete proposals for Wales. Considering our £5 billion of trade and good net surplus with the EU, Wales is set to suffer most from the pursuit of a brutal Brexit. Does the Minister accept that doing nothing to counter the loss of EU convergence funding will serve only to exacerbate the already significant geographical wealth and earnings inequalities that characterise the British state?
I urge the hon. Lady to read the Green Paper, in which she will see an absolutely crystal-clear commitment to making sure that all parts of the United Kingdom are able to share prosperity. That is good for those places and good for the UK as a whole.
I welcome the Green Paper’s recognition of the vital role of the creative industries, the one sector that grew throughout the whole of the last recession. Will the Secretary of State reassure me that that extends to the TV and film industry? The recent hit Netflix series “The Crown”, which was filmed in my constituency, is a wonderful example of how jobs, investment and exports can be generated by the sector. Does he agree that that requires not only the right skills, but the requisite supply of commercial space, particularly in the south-east?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The creative industries, together, have some claim to be Britain’s most successful sector in recent years—they have been growing very strongly. Sir Peter Bazalgette has agreed to work with the industries to look at what they need to build on that success in the future and to continue to create the great jobs they have produced. I look forward to that work.
I warmly welcome the Government’s new industrial strategy Green Paper, although it implicitly admits that the past six and a half years without an industrial strategy have been wasted. Having said that, the Materials Processing Institute has made a bid to be a metals catapult, and there is no mention of carbon capture and storage. Those issues are critical to the ability of any energy-intensive industries to go forward. Of real concern is certain BEIS civil servants’ views of virgin steelmaking capacity, and certain advice going to Ministers in relation to importing steel, rather than relying primarily on British-made steel, whether that is from Scunthorpe or Port Talbot. Will the Secretary of State please get up at the Dispatch Box and rule that out?
I do not recognise the issue that the hon. Gentleman mentions, but if he speaks to me later, I will be able to find out more about it. I am grateful for his welcome to our approach. I argue strongly that it builds on some of the successes we have enjoyed in recent years, not least by devolving powers and funds to local areas and looking to create institutions that can conduct research and development that now has a worldwide reputation. However, we cannot be complacent; we need to continue that and build on it in the future.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his impressive industrial strategy, which works hand in glove with the Government’s Brexit plans to strengthen business confidence further. The new strategy also underpins the Government’s commitment to the life sciences. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend accept an invitation to come to Macclesfield to see AstraZeneca’s site—the largest pharmaceutical site in the UK—to find out more about its exciting growth plans for the future?
I will, indeed. Talking about the life sciences in the north-west touches on one of the themes of the Green Paper, which is the interaction between sectors and places, and how we can build institutions that can encourage smaller businesses to benefit from the presence of a range of other businesses in that sector. We have further work to do, and my hon. Friend will be expert adviser on it.
A Green Paper should set out the Government’s ambitions in a particularly policy area, and the central focus of an industrial strategy should be on jobs. I asked the Secretary of State on
The Green Paper does mention the fact that we will set out further measures on employment policies. I have agreed with the hon. Gentleman in the past that, just as I said in relation to the question from Hannah Bardell, when people’s contribution is not adequately made use of, it is a loss and an injustice for not just the individuals concerned, but the whole of the country and the economy.
This is a very welcome and ambitious Green Paper. In Swindon, we have embraced development to attract new businesses and jobs, but to be able to reach our full potential, we need to unlock additional land and infrastructure funding quickly. How can that process be speeded up?
I am keen that we should be agile and fleet of foot. It is important that land and premises are available, not least for businesses that are expanding, or those that are being founded or located for the first time. My right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary has that very much in that mind as part of his reforms to the planning system.
UK manufacturing and exports are benefiting greatly from the more sensible and appropriate parity of sterling, but much more needs to be done to rebuild Britain’s industrial strength. Will the Secretary of State therefore give serious consideration to re-establishing the National Economic Development Council to provide a forum for employers, trade unions and Government to consult and advise on how British industry may be promoted for the future?
I am interested in the hon. Gentleman’s proposal. I had not thought of reviving a body that I think was associated with a different type of industrial strategy. The council was about the big employers sitting down with Government. As some of my hon. Friends have pointed out, the approach that we want to take is more about creating conditions in which insurgents, new businesses and challengers to existing businesses have a central place. I am not sure that his suggestion would be the right approach, but I would be interested in hearing from him about it.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are the bedrock of local economic endeavour in Northamptonshire, and light industry, small-scale manufacturing and engineering firms are the backbone of the local economy. How can the Secretary of State best demonstrate to my constituents that his new industrial strategy is relevant to them?
In a number of ways, I think. My experience of such businesses is that sometimes what constrains their ability to fulfil growing order books is a lack of skilled staff whom they can employ. The big focus on technical skills, and on improving the standard of technical education by working closely with employers, will make a big difference, especially to small and medium-sized business that cannot operate large training institutes themselves.
How does the Secretary of State reconcile his commitment to innovation and insurgency with the wholesale pillage of the cream of British high-technology firms through foreign takeover, not least the current takeover by Mastercard of VocaLink and the prospective sale by the Government themselves of the green investment bank to Macquarie?
I regard it as a badge of pride that this country is open to overseas investment, from which we have benefited hugely. When I was with my hon. Friend Chris White in the west midlands on Friday, we met the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by an Indian company and has been a force for great good in the area. I want to be open to overseas investment.
I warmly welcome the rigour of the analysis underlying the Green Paper. When the Secretary of State considers the future of the aerospace growth partnership, will he think about what happens across Government, particularly at Boscombe Down with the long-term relationship between the Ministry of Defence and QinetiQ, and look for opportunities to grow such areas of real expertise?
The aerospace growth partnership has been a success, and we are committing not only to continuing that now very successful institution, but to learning lessons for how other sectors might create similar institutions themselves.
I absolutely support the need for an industrial strategy, so I welcome the Green Paper on that basis, but the proof of the pudding will be in investment and whether the money is there to support the proposals. May I invite the Secretary of State to Oldham College in my constituency so that he can hear from the principal and the governing body about how the lack of funding in schools is undermining the efforts that are pointed out in the industrial strategy?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity, through a consultation that seeks to establish as much common ground as possible on our priorities for the future, to work with colleges and employers to ensure that the reforms that are needed are put in place so that we can equip his and all our constituents with the skills that they will need to get good jobs in the future.
I applaud the Secretary of State for putting life sciences front and centre of his industrial strategy and point out that the industry’s largest customer is the national health service. Will he therefore confirm that, as part of his review of procurement, the NHS’s inflexible and unimaginative procurement processes will fall within the scope of the review, not least in relation to drugs, devices, therapies and diagnostics?
It is evident that this is a whole-Government Green Paper; not just my Department but all Departments are joined in it, and the Health Secretary is an enthusiastic participant and will want to be part of those conversations —advised, I am sure, by the expertise that my hon. Friend brings to the subject.
When the Secretary of State met the four Ayrshire MPs to discuss the Ayrshire growth deal, we had a very positive and encouraging discussion, and we welcomed that. He suggested that the growth deal aligned with the Green Paper, and having now seen the 10 action points, I agree. Will he confirm that he still believes that the Ayrshire growth deal aligns with the industrial strategy? If so, will he also commit to working with his Treasury colleagues to secure some money for it?
I strongly believe in the city deals and growth deals, and I thought the presentation from the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues showed a very good ambition, bringing together the industrial strengths and opportunities of their area, so I wish it every success. These deals need to be negotiated, but he will know that in Scotland we have a good record of making progress on city and growth deals.
I welcome the statement. As the Secretary of State knows, the east of England enjoys an excellent ecosystem for life sciences. Does he agree that the strategy provides industry and business, particularly the life sciences sector, with the opportunity to bring their ideas to the door in order to truly drive their sectors and upskill our workforce? Also, may I invite him to Bury St Edmunds, which sits beautifully next to Cambridge and has both an enterprise zone and West Suffolk College, which would make an excellent institute for technology?
That is an enticing invitation—it would be very nice to visit Bury St Edmunds—but I am in danger of filling my diary for the year. My hon. Friend’s points resonate with the themes of the Green Paper, which is about ensuring that we have the right institutions and skills to support the businesses of the future. The strategy will be business-led. It is not about the Government directing business; it is an invitation to business, employers and consumers to respond by saying what they need from it, rather than the Government simply saying, “This is how it’s going to be”.
The Secretary of State briefly alluded to the importance of migration policy for the industrial strategy, productivity and innovation, so will he consult on taking over responsibility for certain parts of migration policy, seeing as the Home Office is making a mess of it? Even better, given his warm words on the importance of devolution, will he consult on devolving immigration policy so that the nations and regions can use local knowledge to determine the local skills needs?
My responsibilities are broad enough and keeping me busy without my taking my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary’s job. That said, the hon. Gentleman’s question gives me the opportunity to re-emphasise that the strategy is a whole-Government approach, and of course it is important that the brightest and the best can continue to be employed here and to make the contribution they do to the whole UK economy.
There is obviously much to be welcomed in the strategy, but may I express my particular support for the importance being placed on science investment and developing skills? To that end, will my right hon. Friend, first, seize the moment and make the case across Government for increasing spending on science and technology to 3% of GDP, which many of our competitor nations have done and which the Science and Technology Committee, which I chair, has called for? Secondly, will he please publish the digital strategy as a matter of urgency?
I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee for pushing us in that direction. He will see in the Green Paper that we are clear sighted about the need to invest in science and research, and this is not just Government investment; we want to create the conditions in which the private sector can invest in research and development. On the digital strategy, that is very much part of the programme that this industrial strategy is leading, and he will not have long to wait before he sees it.
The House of course knows of the situation at Doosan Babcock. Whenever any business makes redundancies, or redundancies are threatened, that is a worrying time for the employees. We are active, through Jobcentre Plus and our other agencies, in making sure that whatever opportunities are available, whether new jobs or training, are offered. In that respect, we generally have a good record, including in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and the Green Paper takes up that approach. It acknowledges that businesses will close from time to time, but that the most important thing is that we equip those workers with the right skills to get good jobs in the future.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to skills. Does my right hon. Friend agree that creating a UCAS-style system for apprenticeships could realise the Government’s ambition by giving technical education greater parity of esteem with universities, making it easier for young people to find local vacancies and increasing the number of SMEs offering apprenticeships?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his words and for his contribution, which, as he will see when he reads it, features prominently in the Green Paper. It is an excellent idea, and I hope he will promote its success in the years ahead.
I would hope not least, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance has calculated that there is an annual shortfall of 50,000 skilled engineers and that this will aggregate to about 800,000 by 2020. How does the Secretary of State plan to close that gap? While he is at the Dispatch Box, will he take the opportunity to scotch the recent press reports and confirm that all the steel in HS2 will be made at UK plants, including Shotton, where many of my constituents work?
On the first point, it is clear that our investment in and focus on technical education goes precisely to meet the challenge that the hon. Gentleman identifies—around the gap between the needs of employers and the skills available in the workforce. On procurement for HS2, he will know that we have changed the guidelines to enable the contribution from British steel to be viewed on a fairer basis, but obviously that is part of a process that HS2 will need to go through to procure the product.
Given the failed industrial policies of the post-war period—unforgiveable sums of taxpayers’ money were wasted trying to prop up and pick winners—I am reassured to hear the Secretary of State say that his approach will be a much broader and more intelligent one. With that in mind and with a view to horizontal reforms, where do tax simplification and deregulation—arguably two of the greatest supply-side reforms that helped to lift the British economy out of the doldrums in the 1980s—fit into his strategy?
They are both important. The third of the three challenges I mentioned at the beginning of my statement was to make and keep the UK as one of the best places in the world to found or grow a business, and both of the policies my hon. Friend mentions are crucial to that. This country has succeeded in creating and hosting new businesses in recent years partly because we in the Conservative party have had that very much in mind.
I congratulate the Secretary of State and his team on the Green Paper and welcome the recognition that the digitisation of our energy system and the inclusion of storage and demand-management technologies will improve productivity as keenly as any other infrastructure improvement. Does he agree that the UK could and should be the world leader in clean tech, and does he share my view that the south-west would be an ideal focal point for the UK’s growth in that sector?
I certainly agree with the first proposition; we have an opportunity there. On the second, I would say that my hon. Friend is commendably vigorous in his promotion of the south-west, which will have a very big role to play. So, too, will other parts of the country: Cumbria, for example, with its strong nuclear cluster; and the east coast with its expertise in marine engineering and supplying offshore wind. All parts of the UK can benefit from our leadership in clean growth.
I welcome the industrial strategy paper, especially its focus on science and skills, its building on local strengths and its addressing of institutional gaps. As my right hon. Friend knows, Kent has strength in life sciences, but a conspicuous institutional gap in its lack of a medical school—an institution from which life science innovations frequently emerge. I mention to my right hon. Friend that I am hopeful that this industrial strategy might be a vehicle for Kent to seek support for a medical school, and I would be grateful to him for any encouragement he might offer.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her words. She will know that in life sciences, one proposal is to review what the sector needs to be able to support the small and medium-sized businesses in it, so that proposal might be something to be taken up.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the statement and on the Green Paper. As he develops the industrial strategy, will he continue to support Britain’s leadership role in the fourth industrial revolution, and the new jobs, innovations and companies that are driving forward our growth? Will he encourage them to contribute to the Green Paper consultation, which I warmly welcome?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for all the work he has done to make sure that this country does not cede to others the energy and initiative to take advantage of what is termed the fourth industrial revolution. The pamphlet that he recently wrote is full of good ideas, and I hope that my hon. Friend and his colleagues who wrote the pamphlet will respond to the consultation.
I commend the Secretary of State’s statement, and I commend to him the report of the all-party parliamentary group on steel and metal-related industries, which has been published today. I hope that it will be useful as part of the ongoing discussions within government. The Government have made great strides forward in public sector procurement, so will my right hon. Friend make sure as part of this work that we do everything we can to transfer some of those principles into private sector procurement, too?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I will certainly bear in mind what he said and will read closely the APPG report that he mentions.
Any industrial or digital strategy must rely on transformative investment in broadband infrastructure. Can the Secretary of State reassure us that this is a strategy that will address not only the problems of the last 10 years, but those of the next 20 and 30 years, so we can plan for a world web with an internet of things and the fourth industrial revolution, which my hon. Friend Mr Mak mentioned a few moments ago?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Our strategy must, of course, be forward looking and must be able to create the conditions in which investors and firms can make commitments now that are going to lead to our prosperity in the future. My hon. Friend’s frame of reference is absolutely right.
I am interested to hear this observation from my hon. Friend. We are talking about a consultation. It is important to participate in the new industries, so that through our research and development and scientific expertise we can take our place in that respect, but of course a lot of our existing industries make an important contribution to our economy and to employment, and we want to make sure that they can prosper, too.
I welcome these proposals and note that in all 10 of the areas of focus, the Yeovil area and its aerospace cluster present outstanding and crucial opportunities to optimise our potential. Will my right hon. Friend visit my constituency and help me to promote a local centre of excellence, an institute of technology, to build local skills and actively to encourage inward investment from the likes of Boeing, so that in partnership with great local companies such as Leonardo, we can deliver the skills and jobs of the future and maintain our strategic abilities in helicopters?
In my tour of the country—from Orkney to Somerset, it now seems—I will be delighted to look at the aerospace cluster in Yeovil. Companies reinforce each other by their presence, and as we know from experience across the world, when we have several companies all in the same sector, it is a source of resilience to local economies.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I know you have been saving the best for last.
Many references have been made to mobile technologies and electric vehicles as growth areas for the future. They both rely heavily on batteries. Will the Secretary of State therefore join me in welcoming last week’s news that large deposits of lithium have been found in Cornwall? This creates a great opportunity to build on our mining heritage in Cornwall and develop new industries around the extraction of lithium. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this industrial strategy is designed precisely to support industries such as this one?
I am interested to hear this—I had not picked up that news—from my hon. Friend. It is certainly true that the technological developments in energy storage, including batteries, provide a big opportunity. If Cornwall has an opportunity to contribute some of the raw materials for that, I am sure that this will be excellent news for the county.