The industrial strategy White Paper highlighted the emphatic support for sector deals, encouraging any sector to come forward with proposals on how, working in partnership with the Government, that sector can grow and increase its investment, productivity and earning power. A number of sectors have signalled their interest in developing a sector deal, including, as my hon. Friend knows, the ceramics sector.
I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Will he please update the House on the progress that has been made in developing a sector deal for ceramics?
Very good progress is being made with the leaders of the ceramics sector, of which there is a significant cluster in north Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, where Dr Laura Cohen leads the sector. In the months ahead, we hope and expect to be able to conclude a deal with the sector that will capitalise on the enormous opportunity, especially given the new uses of ceramics in, for example, the medical sector.
The Government are not just a funder and a regulator; they are also a customer. Would it help if national and local government acted like they do in every other country and bought vehicles built in this country by British workers, thereby supporting the companies and British workers?
The most important thing is that we have excellent products here, and I am proud to say that we do in the automotive sector. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government changed the procurement guidelines to allow the importance of local impact to be taken into account. I hope he welcomes that.
Thanks to the actions of this Government, it is widely recognised that the UK now has the most fiscally attractive regime in the world for investment in oil and gas. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a good sector deal would build on that and would mean that the north-east of Scotland could look forward to a future in which it is not only Europe’s energy capital, but the world’s?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. I had the privilege of leading a trade delegation to India that included many companies from Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland that are selling their wares and expertise right around the world. That is one of the big opportunities in the deal that is being negotiated.
The steel industry met the criteria for a sectoral deal, it wanted one and applied for one, but it did not get one. Will the Secretary of State please explain why?
The discussions with the steel sector are continuing and I fully expect to conclude an important and ambitious deal for this foundational industry.