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Industrial Strategy

Part of Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 18th April 2018.

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Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 3:40 pm, 18th April 2018

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is sometimes not known and cannot be seen what modern manufacturing is about. I had the great privilege and pleasure of visiting the Big Bang Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham a few weeks ago, which does precisely what he advises. The excitement among the young people there, seeing the possibilities available, was palpable. It does a great job.

I know that you are rightly interested in other Members being able to contribute, Madam Deputy Speaker, so I will make some progress and give colleagues the chance to speak. Along with the measures in the Taylor review, it is very important, when new technologies require different skills from the existing workforce, that we back industry in providing the training that is needed. In that regard, the national retraining scheme being developed in conjunction with employers and trade unions, focusing initially on construction and digital skills, is a very important commitment. It is also vital that we upgrade our infrastructure, be it physical infrastructure or the broadband and mobile connections on which many new businesses depend, and again commitments have been made in that regard important.

When it comes to places, the leadership being given to many of our great cities by elected Mayors, not least those elected last year, must be combined with the ability, powers and resources necessary for them to make a difference to their areas. One of our commitments was a fund to enable local leaders better to connect not just city centres but the networks and clusters of smaller towns around our cities. An early example was the decision by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, to use the investment available through the industrial strategy to fund a metro extension to Brierley Hill and Wednesbury, which connects two important parts of the west midlands to Birmingham and the wider area.

On the business environment, we know that there is a problem of composition. We have some highly productive, highly performing businesses as well as what the Bank of England has identified as a long tail of less productive businesses, and transmitting the lessons from the best to the others is an important part of the work that we need to do.

I will conclude by saying a word about the importance of particular sectors. We have talked about the north-east and Teesside, the west midlands and other parts of the country. We know that the clusters of excellence in those areas can be very important not only in driving productivity but in attracting new investment and becoming the location of new businesses.