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House of Commons Hansard
12 December 2017
Volume 633
  • 3. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on productivity of the Government’s industrial strategy. [902881]

  • We know that the best way to improve our productivity is by investing in research and development, improving the level of skills in our workforce, upgrading our infrastructure, creating an attractive environment for new and growing businesses, and making sure that every place in the country can prosper. That is exactly what the industrial strategy does.

  • Our productivity growth has been far worse than that of any other G7 country bar Italy. Does the Secretary of State admit that the Government public investment figures in the revised industrial strategy are far below those of leading OECD nations?

  • No: if the hon. Gentleman reads the strategy he will see that there is a commitment to the biggest increase in research and development funding, both private and public sector, that we have ever had in this country. It has been the foundation of our success, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming the progress we are making to be even better at it.

  • Productivity in the construction industry is a key requirement of building houses. How will the Secretary of State ensure quality in on and offsite builds for the £1.7 billion investment in construction in the industrial strategy?

  • I am glad my hon. Friend mentions that, because the construction sector is one of the areas in which there are big opportunities. It has a sector deal that has been concluded as part of the industrial strategy, and representatives of the sector have said that this represents a major opportunity, especially in offsite manufacture.

  • The Secretary of State has just touched on the sector deals the Government are agreeing with different sectors of the economy. Some of the sectors with the lowest productivity, such as retail, hospitality and social care, do not have a sector deal, yet if we close the productivity gap in those sectors, we will help boost productivity overall compared with our main competitors. What are the Government doing to secure sector deals in those sectors?

  • I am delighted to hear the hon. Lady’s endorsement of that, and she is absolutely right that there is an opportunity for sector deals for many sectors, including those she mentioned. We are already in discussions with many of those sectors, including the food and drink sector and the hospitality sector; we expect to see early sector deals concluded in them. I am delighted that the hon. Lady supports that.

  • I congratulate the Secretary of State on launching the industrial strategy—in particular the life sciences sector deal, which has already triggered £1 billion of new investment. Does he agree that the key now is to negotiate a Brexit deal that avoids a cliff edge but gives us the regulatory freedom to continue to lead in the all-important genomics and data of tomorrow’s medicine?

  • I do agree with that, and I commend my hon. Friend as the former life sciences Minister who saw before many people the opportunities of the strategic approach. I think he has been honoured this very week by the learned societies for his contribution to promoting science in Parliament, and I congratulate him on that. He is absolutely right that we need to build on these successes. The life sciences sector deal is a demonstration that a long-term strategy can have immediate benefits; we have had more than £1 billion of investment on the basis of the confidence that the sector has in the strategy we have set out.

  • With a few notable exceptions, I am sure we would all agree that technology has improved the productivity of this House, but the same is not true for our country: productivity has stagnated since 2010, and we produce 25% less in an hour than the Germans and French, crippling business and making us all poorer. Last week the Chancellor tried to blame disabled workers, but his own Budget fails to invest in science and productivity until 2021. Will the Secretary of State admit that the Chancellor’s ideological austerity, meaning we fail to invest in our engines of economic growth, is the real handicap here?

  • I do not agree with the hon. Lady, and if she reads the industrial strategy she will see that the biggest increase in science and innovation investment for 40 years has been triggered by this. It is the right way to go, and it has been welcomed by all parties across the country. It would be helpful if the hon. Lady recognised that many other countries have benefited from a strong national commitment to improving investment in productivity, such as through science and innovation, and that gives confidence to overseas investors.