Queen’s Speech - Debate (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:01 pm on 26th June 2017.

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Photo of The Earl of Selborne The Earl of Selborne Conservative 10:01 pm, 26th June 2017

My Lords, I propose to follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and others and confine my remarks to what the gracious Speech calls a new modern industrial strategy. When the Science and Technology Committee in the previous Parliament, which I had the privilege of chairing, took evidence on the Green Paper Building our Industrial Strategy, we were frequently reminded that industrial strategies have been formulated regularly, at least one a decade for 60 years, since the Attlee Administration. It is fair to say that most have not stood the test of time, so the first question to be addressed when formulating what the gracious Speech calls “a new modern industrial strategy” is: have we learned lessons from previous failures?

Whether we end up with a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, our long-term prospects will depend on achieving economic growth in all parts of the United Kingdom. We have to improve productivity, capture a larger share of world trade and attract inward investment. We are not going to achieve lasting periods of economic growth unless we successfully promote innovation. Successful innovation raises productivity and living standards, expands the range of goods and services available to individuals and society and allows us to live longer, healthier lives. It will not solve all our problems. I accept that, as my noble friend reminded us, lack of productively is very much a consequence of poor management. It is not just business that must innovate; government and social organisations need to innovate, adapt, respond to and shape the evolution of society. We have a strong science base—I do not think that is disputed—but that does not ensure that we will be among the global leaders in developing new innovative technologies and processes.

The Green Paper recognised the potential benefits and, indeed, our national dependence on science and innovation, but it failed to impart a vision of how we are going to develop a coherent strategy. It amounted to a portfolio of tactics. The Science and Technology Committee suggested that a new modern industrial strategy should first set out pathways of practical steps to a more regionally dispersed economy building on our research excellence at every opportunity. The strategy should be clear on how many sector deals the Government aspire to. They are clearly already an important component. They should also explain how transformational technologies that do not necessarily fit comfortably into existing sectors will be matured. The noble Lord, Lord Mountevans, in his inspiring maiden speech, referred to the impact that robotics will have in the marine and other sectors. Many such sectors will be transformed by autonomous systems. This is an example of where innovation will lead in most unpredictable directions, but new industries they certainly will be.

We need to change the investment culture within our fund management industry to encourage, by a coherent approach to tax and regulation, the further supply of long-term capital for industry and science, particularly for emerging science-based firms with the potential to be significant global players. Brexit presents opportunities for businesses in the United Kingdom to gain competitive advantage from reforms to taxation and regulation that were previously not possible as part of the European Union framework. The new, modern industrial strategy promised in the gracious Speech must spell out clearly how such competitive advantage will be gained.