We have had great success over the years in developing key sectors, including aerospace and the automotive sector. To build on this, we have set out proposals for new business-led sector deals in the industrial strategy. The first set of deals is already under development. We are taking steps to drive growth in sectors across the economy, including with funding for science, infrastructure and technical education.
Does the Secretary of State share my concern that the implementation of an industrial strategy led by the big players will focus solely on the big players? What is he doing to ensure that the small and medium-sized enterprises in those sectors, which are often the engine rooms, get their fair say and their fair share?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is not the case. I have regular discussions with the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce and smaller businesses right across the country. The supply chain, and making our country more attractive to supply chain businesses, are absolutely foundational to our industrial success, and that involves a particular regard for small businesses.
Cyber-security is one of the most important sectors for this country’s growth, but the UK has the highest skills gap in cyber-security in the world. Does the Secretary of State think that the Government’s current commitment to educate 1% of our students in cyber-security by 2021 is anywhere near good enough?
The hon. Lady makes a very good point. If we are to take advantage of the opportunities that exist, we need to upgrade our technical education. That is why in last week’s Budget the Chancellor made such a clear commitment, prominent in the industrial strategy, to transform the level of technical education, including to increase by 50% the hours of tuition that are available. Cyber-security is one of the areas in which I would expect that to be applied.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is an important sector, as has been evident from our discussions this morning. That reflects the track record of working together that will continue and be reinforced. I think that all Members across the House will have been as delighted as I was that Boeing made its commitment to its first ever UK plant in Sheffield, showing how attractive we are to advanced manufacturing businesses such as that.
The BEIS Committee’s recent report stated that the industrial strategy Green Paper
“provides little clarity on how…sectoral deals will work in practice”,
and that it appears to lack “political will”, falling short of
“providing a clear framework for decision making in the long term.”
Is it lack of clarity or lack of political will that has led to a bespoke Brexit deal for certain manufacturers while leaving others, and indeed other industries, in a state of uncertainty?
May I welcome the hon. Lady to her first BEIS oral questions? I see her predecessor behind her. She is, I think, my third opposite number in the eight months that I have had this job. The first was appointed in the summer, the second in the autumn, and she was appointed in the winter. I noticed this week that the birds were singing and the sun was out, so I hope that is not bad news for the hon. Lady. On her points about the industrial strategy, the sector deals that we have proposed have been widely welcomed. We have set out a number of initial deals in, for example, life sciences and the creative industries. We are already talking to other sectors such as the steel sector, and a lot of colleagues in the House will want to see that taken forward.
Oh, the Secretary of State is cheeky! He might want to refer to the report, because it also states that the White Paper on exiting the EU failed to meaningfully refer to an industrial strategy
“and reinforces a lack of coordination between the Government’s major challenge and its principal plank of business policy.”
Given that last week’s Budget failed to mention Brexit or the industrial strategy, does the Secretary of State agree with the recent Foreign Affairs Committee report that the Government have provided “no evidence” of industrial contingency planning in the event of no deal? If that is so, what is his no deal plan?
I say gently to the hon. Lady that she will have to do a bit better than that. I have the Budget here. She says that it does not mention the industrial strategy. I can tell her that it is mentioned in the first paragraph on the first page, and throughout. Given her interest in this, she ought to read the Budget.
In my hon. Friend’s area, as in every area of the country, the opportunities for the supply chain to be attracted to and to locate in this country—to supply the major manufacturers and service providers, but also to export around the world—is one of the key themes emerging from the sector deals that are being negotiated.