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Industrial Strategy

Volume 614: debated on Tuesday 13 September 2016

3. What steps the Government is taking to develop its industrial strategy; and if he will make a statement. (906276)

I am delighted that the Prime Minister has asked me to lead the historic task of preparing a proper industrial strategy for our country. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to embrace the opportunities of our new global role, and to upgrade our economy so that it works for everyone. We will work with the breadth of British industry, local leaders, innovators, employees and consumers to create the conditions for future success.

May I, too, take the opportunity to congratulate the Front-Bench teams on their appointments?

The words “industrial strategy” often conjure up images of manufacturing and heavy industry. Can the Secretary of State confirm that the service sector, which, after all, constitutes 80% of the British economy, will also be comprehensively covered by this industrial strategy?

I can indeed confirm that. In our projections of how we are to earn our living as a nation, we should look to our strengths. The service sector is undoubtedly one of our greatest strengths, and we must of course create the conditions that will enable it to continue to prosper in the future.

I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to what is a fantastic, ambitious, interesting and challenging brief. I wish him and his ministerial team all the best. Will he now explain precisely how the new industrial strategy marks a distinctive change in the Government’s approach to collaboration with business and intervention in the economy—or is it merely a change to the nameplate at 1 Victoria Street?

It is certainly not that. I would very much welcome the involvement of the new Select Committee which I expect to be formed in ensuring that we capture everything that we need to make a success of the strategy. I do not think that it is brand new, in the sense that, as I have said, we build on success. For instance, we talked to one of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues about the automotive sector, which we know has been a significant source of strength. The environment that we have created with the firms in the sector, and with universities and scientific institutions, has been crucial to its success. We will build on those strong foundations, and will be very clear about our path for the future.

As the Government formulate their industrial strategy, may I urge my right hon. Friend to look at the American small business innovation research programme, which funds research at the critical stage between science and the commercialisation of technology, and which has spawned companies such as Qualcomm, Jawbone and Tesla? Will he consider a United Kingdom equivalent?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is very well informed about the need to translate research success into small business success. I am sure that we can discuss it further.

17. I welcome the new team as well, although I suspect that even the Secretary of State knows that this is not going to be a full English Brexit, but a dog’s Brexit. [Interruption.] Thank you very much; I am here all week. As for the industrial strategy, one of the real problems facing many parts of the country—as was revealed at the time of the referendum—is that they are now post-industrial. They are areas that formerly had one industry, such as tourism, iron and steel, coal or shipbuilding. Will the Secretary of State ensure that we take the opportunity to invest in those forgotten areas, so that we can improve their productivity in particular? (906290)

They are not forgotten. The hon. Gentleman is very good at one-liners. The creative industries are an important source of strength, and that includes comedians.

Some of the most successful places in the world, especially cities, have developed in such a way that they have resilience as a result of having different industries. That even applies to cities in which there was formerly a single dominant industry. We want to work with local leaders to ensure that we strengthen the resilience of our own regional centres.

I welcome the new Front Bench team, particularly the visiting fellow of All Souls, who is appropriately the Minister for the Oxfordshire local enterprise partnership, and the Minister for consumer affairs, who is a brilliant re-tweeter, particularly of my interview in today’s Times.

As part of the industrial strategy, I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will recognise the importance of science and innovation; in my constituency in Harwell we are a microcosm of the future of Britain, linking science with high tech, and I hope it will feature strongly in his industrial strategy.

It certainly will, and the strength of science, not least in Oxfordshire, is one of our national strengths and it will be at the heart of our strategy.

How will the Secretary of State ensure the future industrial strategy is mindful of Northern Ireland’s particular reliance on EU support and access to the common market?

As I said earlier, we will make sure we work with our colleagues across the United Kingdom. I had a very productive meeting with Simon Hamilton in the summer, to make sure we co-ordinate our efforts with those of policy makers in Northern Ireland. It needs to be joined-up and it will be, and we will make sure our negotiating mandate reflects contributions from across the UK.

I join others in welcoming those on the Front Bench and the creation of a Department that is going to deal with industrial strategy. The country is badly unbalanced at the moment and we will support any realistic thorough-going industrial strategy that is developed.

We know how the strategy has gone over the summer—BHS has gone bust, with 11.000 jobs gone. Sports Direct is paying less than the minimum wage, world-leading company ARM, a home-grown British gem, has been sold overseas—and meanwhile one of the Secretary of State’s Cabinet colleagues has talked down British business, calling our companies fat and lazy, and there is still no clear and unambiguous progress on the steel industry. It has been over two years since the consultation on the steel industry pensions ended. When will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the pensions of tens of thousands of loyal and hard-working steel workers will be properly protected?

The steel industry is a very important industry in our country. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I grew up in Teesside where it was particularly prominent. I had some productive discussions in the summer, including visiting south Wales to make sure the Government can give the right support to a sustainable future for the steel industry, and I am happy to make the hon. Gentleman aware of these discussions.