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Industrial Strategy

Part of Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 18th April 2018.

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Photo of Rebecca Long-Bailey Rebecca Long-Bailey Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 4:19 pm, 18th April 2018

My hon. Friend made some pertinent points and I will talk about skills shortly, and the extreme worry that many of our business leaders across the country have voiced about both Brexit and the quality and adequacy of the supply we have currently in the UK.

Returning to the problems that are a barometer of the issues in our economy, will the Minister update us in his summing up on the Government’s rabbit-in-the-headlights approach to the risks currently faced by our steel industry as a result of recent discussions and the global crisis of overcapacity and dumping? This Government have been in power for eight years—the best part of a decade—and they must own these problems if they are to make any progress; they must own the fact that they have not solved the five problems I outlined earlier, and that instead they have festered.

The Secretary of State and I are in clear agreement on the need for an effective industrial strategy. I applauded the Government for adopting to some extent Labour’s mission-orientated policy approach and the Secretary of State outlined the challenges again today, but I am afraid that this is where the consensus ends. As I set out late last year, the detail and investment proposed in the industrial strategy White Paper simply did not match the surrounding rhetoric, and fell far short of what was needed truly to boost our economy. Indeed, a Government source was recently quoted as saying:

“It’s all perfectly worthy, who could oppose any of it? But there is no money, and even if there was, no one has a decent idea of what to do with it.”

So for the benefit of the House let us look briefly at a few key snippets again.

The Secretary of State touched on innovation. Raising total R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 is certainly better than where we were, but the UK has been below the OECD average of 2.4% of GDP for years, and we are way behind world leaders who spend over 3% such as Japan, South Korea, Finland and Sweden. Why are we simply aiming for average? It must also be noted that the R&D investment of many of our regions and nations is also well below average. Over half of all research funding goes to the south-east, for example.