EEF went out on a limb yesterday, welcoming the government's focus on manufacturing and additional funding for key priorities, but we also criticised the government's approach to handing out the money.
We've long argued that government needs to actively suppurt manufacturing, and in Manufacturing. Our Future. we set out a clear framework that would underpin a long-term strategy to support the sector. We believe that without a framework, or without clear criteria for investment decisions, manufacturers will not have get the long-term clairty the need to make long-term investment decisions.
So we took some flack about our criticism of yesterday's announcement.
Here's what the FT editorial had to say, however:
"In principle, Lord Mandelson’s keenness to support British manufacturing
is a good thing. It breaks with three decades of reflexive scepticism
about the importance of manufacturing...[and]...in a global context of activist
governments, Britain cannot afford to stand alone.
But as Lord Mandelson pursues a new policy of “industrial activism”
– not to be confused with old-fashioned government intervention – he
needs to articulate the principles and criteria guiding this and future
The use of public money to support private
enterprise warrants close examination. The collateral benefits to
British society need to be demonstrated. The government must show this
is about supporting winners, not picking them.
importantly, while activism is nice, it is no substitute for
establishing a business environment where enterprise can flourish."
The Times columnist Ian King had similar words of caution:
"It seems churlish to complain at the Government’s £150 million
handout to advanced manufacturing, unveiled with typical understatement
by Lord Mandelson yesterday.
After all, any support for manufacturing is welcome, especially for sectors such as aerospace, in which Britain excels...
If it was serious about manufacturing, it would have thought more about
which parts of manufacturing deserve strategic support over the longer
term. Instead, it has lobbed short-term bungs around in an unfocused
manner, dithering publicly over whether to support businesses such as
Jaguar Land Rover and Vauxhall when it should have acted decisively
either to rescue them or to let them go under quickly."
And in case you missed it, the Guardian had a comment piece from our Director of Policy and Chief Economist, Stephen Radley. [NB: having difficulty getting the link...will update later]