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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the Industrial Strategy.
It is a great pleasure to open this debate. We are at one of the most important, exciting and challenging times in the history of global enterprise. All around the world, new technologies are transforming the way in which we live our lives as citizens, how we work, and the products and services that we consume and supply. Whether it is in artificial intelligence, the digitisation of manufacturing, the clean energy revolution or breakthroughs in medicine, such is the scale of change that it has been described as the fourth industrial revolution. Britain is extraordinarily well placed to lead and benefit from this industrial revolution, just as we did in the first industrial revolution.
We are an open and enterprising economy, built on invention, innovation and competition. We are one of the world’s scientific powerhouses, producing more Nobel prize winners each year than any other country apart from America. We are synonymous with creativity, from literature to video games. People know that the UK is a hotbed of new ideas. In an uncertain world, we have a deserved reputation for being a dependable and confident place in which to do business, with high standards, respected institutions and the reliable rule of law. As this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting shows, we are—and always will be—proudly international. We are a crossing point for the world because of our geographic position, the importance of the English language, our global friendships and our vibrant culture.
Ten years on from the financial crisis, we have built a stronger economy than many people thought possible at the time. Unemployment is at its lowest rate for 43 years and there are more people in work than ever before. Our public finances have been transformed by rigorously reducing the yawning deficit that was inherited. We have world-beating industries—from financial services to the life sciences, and from the creative industries to advanced manufacturing.
As we look to the future, it is one in which Britain’s strengths are in increasing demand all around the world. The world is avid for our products, services, skills and know-how. To benefit from the opportunities before us, we need to prepare to seize them. We need to ensure that we join all the forces of our people and our economy to reinforce them and extend our strengths into the future, as well as capitalising on the new opportunities that have presented themselves. That is why I stood before this House at the end of November to launch our industrial strategy White Paper.
Deliberately, the exercise of producing the White Paper was a collaborative one. It was the biggest such consultation ever undertaken by my Department and its predecessors, drawing input from more than 2,000 organisations the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. I was particularly pleased that all the devolved Administrations contributed enthusiastically to the consultation. Employers, universities, research institutions, local government leaders and trade unions all contributed to the consultation that resulted in the White Paper, and there was a deliberate reason for this. It seems to me that if the nation is to have an industrial strategy, it has to be for the long term; we must orient our economy and society to the long term. The best way to ensure that policies and institutions endure is to take people with us, and to ensure that the advice and wisdom of all parts of the United Kingdom and all parts of the economy are taken and distilled into something of which all can feel a part.