13 August 2021

Former minister backs calls to halt ‘long decline of British manufacturing’

13 August 2021

A former Government minister has backed a plan which aims to reverse the “long, slow decline of British manufacturing”.

John Penrose gave his backing to the 10-point plan from a cross-party think tank, which has also warned that the UK faces a decade of decline if it fails to increase manufacturing’s value to 15% of GDP by 2025.

The Institute for Prosperity said manufacturing and reindustrialisation is “key” to boosting the economy and to the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.

Weston-Super-Mare Conservative MP Mr Penrose said: “The long, slow decline of British manufacturing has deep roots, so reversing it will need big, structural changes to our education system, our economy and our society.

Perhaps the recommendation that matters most is the last one - be more ambitious.

“We’re already making progress in areas like building new infrastructure, improving technical education and turbocharging capital investment, but there’s still a long way to go. So perhaps the recommendation that matters most is the last one – be more ambitious.”

According to the think tank, UK manufacturing has declined to less than 10% of GDP over the last 40 years, “eroded by a lack of support and rapid deindustrialisation”.

This compares with about 20% of GDP in countries such as Germany and South Korea.

The institute, founded by Labour Party donor John Mills, set out 10 ways to increase manufacturing’s contribution to the national income.

This includes a call to “rebalance the economy” by increasing manufacturing to 15% of GDP.

The think tank called for more funding for technical training, rewards for capital expenditure, the establishment of a national investment bank, and prioritising infrastructure investments with the “highest social payback”.

It also recommends creating a Green Investment Allowance to reduce energy costs, overhauling planning rules for industrial activities, increased investment in research and development, using tax incentives to encourage companies to stay in the UK, and to set ambitious targets to make “Britain the easiest place to set up a manufacturing business”.

Former business secretary Vince Cable, who also backs the 10-point plan, said: “At a time when the Government seems to be going cold on industrial strategy, and leaving the long-term future of the economy to the short-term vagaries of capital markets, it is great to see this very positive reassertion of the value of manufacturing and the need for sustained rebalancing of the economy.”

Mr Mills is also the founder of JML, a consumer goods distribution company, and a lifelong Labour supporter.

He said: “To achieve strong economic growth and make the UK a global powerhouse once more, we need to start with a solid manufacturing base. Our 10 proposed reforms set out today clearly outline the key steps the Government needs to take immediately to achieve economic prosperity.”

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