The Government’S Productivity Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:18 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Conservative, Cannock Chase 3:18 pm, 28th February 2017

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, and it is one that the Select Committee explored in relation to access to finance. There is an over-reliance on bank lending. There is a plethora of ways in which we can finance small businesses, but people do not necessarily look at all the options available to them.

Let me go back to the point about the regions. In the context of devolution, we have combined authorities and local authorities, and in my area we have the midlands engine. I would be interested to hear what support the Government will give those different bodies to try to improve productivity in their areas.

Another point I want to pick up on is that it is very evident in the productivity plan and the industrial strategy that they require cross-Whitehall buy-in, and a number of Whitehall Departments are involved. Before I go into detail on that, let me say that the productivity plan was really led by the Treasury, while the industrial strategy is largely led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. That raises a couple of questions. To what extent does the Treasury have input into the design of the industrial strategy? What is the relationship between the productivity plan and the industrial strategy? Is the industrial strategy the successor of the productivity plan? If not, how will the two work together, and who will manage them, given that they came from different Departments in the first instance? We have talked about transport, skills, and digital infrastructure. In looking to deliver the industrial strategy, we need many Departments to be fully bought into that. For instance, during this Parliament there has been a real focus on various Departments owning exports and taking a degree of responsibility for that area. It is welcome news that the Prime Minister chairs the Economy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy serves on a lot of Sub-Cabinet Committees. What are the Government doing to ensure that the industrial strategy is truly embedded into each of the Departments and that they take responsibility and are accountable for its delivery, thereby in turn improving our productivity?

I want to make a point about measuring success. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington touched on this. It goes back to my original point about the productivity plan. We had concerns as a Committee that the productivity plan was lacking in measurable metrics and delivery timeframes. During the course of our inquiry, it was really noticeable that if we asked people how they defined “industrial strategy”, we got a whole wide range of answers. We need to be very clear about what it is, but also how it is going to be measured so that we can assess whether we are succeeding or otherwise. As we all know, it takes time to see whether we are improving our productivity, so I would also be interested to understand what is being done in the short term to assess our progress on that.

I think we all welcome the focus on productivity. A number of Members have talked about the balance between productivity and employment rates. We need to try to tackle this ongoing issue that we have faced for decades. As a west midlands MP, I think we really do need to look at how we can rebalance and improve our productivity in the regions. I do not want to see the west midlands at the bottom of the English areas in this regard. I welcome the industrial strategy because it looks to have productivity at its heart, but we need to have a commitment to it across Government. We need to look at how it works at a regional level, and to have clear metrics.