Industrial Strategy Green Paper launched for consultation

23 January 2017

The Prime Minister Theresa May has today launched an industrial strategy Green Paper. The paper sets out the government's approach and some early actions which it has committed to take with the aim of the strategy being to address long-term challenges to the UK economy, improve living standards and enable economic development by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country.

The 10-point plan involves:

    Investing in science, research and innovation

    Developing skills

    Upgrading infrastructure

    Supporting business to start and grow

    Improving government procurement

    Encouraging trade and inward investment

    Delivering affordable energy and clean growth

    Cultivating world-leading sectors

    Driving growth across the whole country

    Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places

Highlights of the paper relevant to construction product manufacturers and distributors can be found in this special blog from the Construction Products Association.

Iain McIlwee, British Woodworking Federation CEO commented on the Green Paper:

"The Green Paper is a start and it does the job required in setting down the right framework to develop the conversation on how we can build together a new focus for the UK.  The ten pillars are the right ones and I think the opportunity to create ‘Sector Deals’ helps to show us the way forward for our own  parts of the industry.  It is also encouraging for me personally to see references to the role of Trade Associations and how they can support the evolution of this strategy – we need to see a joined up approach from industry.  This element is something we will be exploring directly and through our umbrella bodies, the Confederation of Timber Industries and the Construction Products Association.

In terms of other positives it is encouraging to see aspirations for sector skills and vocational training re-emphasised in conjunction with a more regional outlook that doesn't just rely on London as the UK's driver of growth.  It is great also again to see an understanding that housing supply is a key driver to supporting productive development. 

In terms of concerns I still worry that the report doesn’t demonstrate a deep-rooted understanding of the wider industrial sector that exists in the UK.  It is great to be aspirational and set your sights on the destination, but, as with any journey, where you are starting from is as important as the destination or it is easy to get lost. 

We cautioned in our initial response that the industrial sector in the UK is more than just wings and wheels and despite the introduction talking in broader terms, we are confronted in this report by 23 separate references to automotive and 18 references to aerospace.  These sectors are large corporation-led and this does provide inherent opportunity in terms of supply chain integration, in more fragmented sectors, such as our own, we need to recreate this more effectively. 

The trade balance is not just about increasing export, but about supporting UK producers in staying, competitive at home, there are some good suggestions about supporting investment, introducing tax incentives to encourage businesses to invest in R&D and some positive assurances in infrastructure and red tape, but it is not exactly radical rethinking and does not address that the problem with red-tape is largely one of enforcement and creating a non-level playing field, particularly when comparing to imports.  Brexit creates the perfect environment to revisit our overly complex taxation environment and look at how we encourage positive behavior in the business community that supports our vision for society. 

There is sensible talk with the sector on “delivering affordable energy and clean growth”, of investment in low-carbon energy supply, but it is silent on the opportunities to utilise natural products that inherently use less energy in their processing such as timber – this is as important when we talk of clean growth and sensible usage of energy. 

The UK joinery sector employs thousands of workers throughout the country, with a combined sector turnover of around £3.5 billion, and the Construction Products sector is five times the size of the automotive market and twice the size of the aerospace sector. In conjunction with new strategies for construction and training, it is crucial that the government is pragmatic in ensuring that British woodworking thrives in a post-Brexit environment. We will be delving further into the detail over the coming weeks and be responding to the consultation on your behalf, in the process we welcome and encourage your comments about how we can help make Britain Great again."

The consultation sets out a number of question with deadline for written evidence 17 April 2017. BWF members can send any evidence that would assist BWF’s response through to matthew.mahony@bwf.org.uk by midday on Friday 31st March at the latest.

We 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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