Government’s Industrial Strategy under scrutiny as BIS Committee launches inquiry

8 September 2016

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BIS) has launched an inquiry into the Government's industrial strategy. The inquiry launch follows the inclusion of the term "industrial strategy" into the Department for Business's name and an indication from the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, that her government will explicitly intervene to support certain parts of the economy.  The Committee will consider what the Government means by industrial strategy and questions how interventionist in the free market it should be. It will also look at the industrial strategies of previous governments and of other countries to see if there are any lessons to be learnt.

The Committee is inviting written submissions, sent via the Committee's website by Tuesday 27 September 2016, on the following:

1. What does the Government mean by industrial strategy, and what does the private sector want from one?

2. How interventionist in the free market should Government be in implementing an industrial strategy, for example in preventing foreign takeovers of UK companies?

3. What lessons can be learnt from:
- Previous governments' industrial strategies?
- Other countries' attempts to develop industrial strategies?

4. What tensions exist between the objectives of an industrial strategy and the objectives of other policies, and how should the Government address these tensions?

5. What are the pros and cons of an industrial strategy adopting a sectoral approach?
- Should the Government proactively seek to ‘pick winners’?
- What criteria should be used to identify which sectors are supported?
- Should the Government prop up traditional industries that it considers to be in the national interest?
- If not a sectoral approach, should the industrial strategy have a broader objective, such as improving productivity?

6. Should the industrial strategy have a geographical emphasis?
- How should an industrial strategy link with devolution initiatives aimed at devolving taxation and decision making away from Westminster?
- What examples are there of interventions from central Government that have successfully supported economic growth away from London and the South East of England?
- How should the industrial strategy work with local authorities and Local Economic Partnerships, reconciling a U.K.-wide strategy and local, regional and devolved nations' priorities?

Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Business Innovation and Skills Committee, said:

"I am pleased that the new Prime Minister agrees that a modern innovative and competitive economy needs an industrial strategy. But we on the committee want to explore what this means in practice. Will this be a return to ‘picking winners’ by the Government? Is it just a rebadging of existing policies? Or is the Government going to make a genuinely new offer to support key industries right across the country?

We will want to explore the rationale for the support and the means of providing it, particularly in a coordinated way across Government departments. We will also want to test how a new Government industrial strategy fits in with its own devolution agenda, so that local, regional and national policies and strategies can be aligned as much as possible."

BWF members can respond directly if they wish, The deadline for written evidence is 27th September 2016. Could you please send any evidence that would assist BWF’s response through to matthew.mahony@bwf.org.uk by midday on Wednesday 21st September at the latest.

The BWF has been working hard to raise the profile of the woodworking sector and highlight how our industry supports the economy and delivers maximum results with minimum environmental impact. Our latest manifesto articulates the BWF position on key policy areas such as jobs, skills and housing. You can download the new A4 leaflet summary of our manifesto here: www.bwf.org.uk/publications/campaigns-toolkit

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