I am delighted to follow Mr Wright. I want to put it on record that he is an excellent Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, although he seems to be a bit more of a “glass half empty” man, particularly in this debate. He supports many of the measures in the productivity plan and the industrial strategy, and members of the Committee share similar views, with perhaps the notable exception of my hon. Friend Richard Fuller.
Improving productivity in the UK has to be a priority if we are to achieve our potential for economic growth. I welcome the premise of the Government’s productivity plan and, in equal measure, suggest that it should continue to be scrutinised by Parliament and the Committee as we work to address the fact that our productivity is below the European average. It is worth noting that that is the case despite the levels of employment that we currently enjoy, and I agree with my right hon. Friend John Redwood that that situation puts us in a good position to increase productivity and to move from lower-paid to higher-paid jobs. As we all know, the UK is currently ranked equal fifth among the G7 countries for labour productivity, but there is much about which to be positive, and I am sure that the trend can be reversed.
As co-chair of the all-party group on manufacturing, I know the immense value to the sector of automation and technological advances. Continuing to invest in innovation can be instrumental in improving productivity. It is vital to recognise the role that Industry 4.0—the fourth industrial revolution, as it is known—will have in rapidly developing our economy. Nations such as Japan and Germany are already embracing the concept, and the UK must develop a solid foundation on which to build our manufacturing capability.