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Industrial Strategy

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2015

3. If he will implement an active and interventionist industrial strategy to assist economic growth in the UK. (900632)

The biggest challenge facing the economy is improving productivity, and that challenge varies by sector. Dialogue with business, including through the sector councils, as part of our industrial approach, is key to addressing this issue.

As a member of the last Labour Government, I am very proud that the Labour party, in government, established the Automotive Council, which has provided the framework for the most successful decade in UK car production for a very long time. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will not, on the altar of ideology, endanger that success?

I look forward to working with the Automotive Council. In fact, I have already had a meeting with it and I told it something the hon. Gentleman would agree with, which is that the automotive industry is one of the brightest stars in the constellation of British business.

May I reassure my right hon. Friend that if he does wish to follow a more liberal policy than his predecessor, he will have plenty of support from Conservative Members?

I can tell my hon. Friend that we will have active dialogue with various industries, across sectors, and we will make sure that we are listening and seeing what the Government can do.

Given tomorrow’s eagerly awaited announcement by the Teesside Collective on its ambitious industrial carbon capture and storage proposal, will the Minister, with his colleagues, ensure that industrial, energy and climate change policies are aligned and that every other assistance is given to the collective in bringing about an early realisation of this vital project?

I have listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and if he would like to furnish me with more information about the Teesside Collective and how we can help, I would be happy to take a look.

The Government’s northern powerhouse strategy has the potential to offer huge benefits to north Wales. What discussions has my right hon. Friend’s Department had with the Welsh Government with a view to developing it?

As my right hon. Friend will know, this is a one nation Government. We want to make sure that, as the economic recovery continues, it includes every part of the UK, and that will of course include Wales. We are more than ready to talk to the Welsh Government. I have had a number of discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, who at this point is a lot more interested than the Welsh Government in economic development in Wales.

The Chancellor says that he supports modern industrial policy and the Prime Minister has said that he wants an active industrial policy, but, according to the Financial Times, the new Business Secretary has told officials in the Department that they should not talk about industrial policy. Now we hear him talking about an “approach”. Can he tell industries around the country whether he still has an industrial policy and, if so, what on earth it is?

I think I have already answered the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I am happy to repeat that answer. This Government will have an active dialogue with all industrial sectors. We will listen to their needs on skills, infrastructure and training, and work with them. That includes the sector councils. We will also make sure that we are open to new industries, to competition and to disruptive industries, and that we become the most open economy in the world.