Key policy messages
· Prioritise spending in key growth areas such as science and innovation, apprenticeships and infrastructure
· Maintain a national focus on skills funding, particularly Apprenticeships, rather than devolving control to LEPs
· Establish a permanent Infrastructure Commission to provide certainty and speed up decision-making on key transport and energy issues
· Commit beyond the current Spending Review period to compensate energy intensive industry for the cost of climate change policies
· Accelerate action to increase competition in business banking
· Starting point on EU should be to make it better for all its members rather than negotiating a uniquely better deal for Britain
These are the key messages in a speech to be given by the Chairman of EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, Martin Temple, at its Annual Dinner in London this evening. Addressing the Guest of Honour, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, and other guests Mr Temple will urge the government to have a laser like focus on growth while using the forthcoming Spending Review to send a clear, long-term signal about the government's priorities.
On the Spending Review, Martin Temple will say:
“All areas on public spending must be subject to the same level of scrutiny on what they deliver for stronger, better balanced growth.
“Just as there can be no free passes or sacred cows for any area of public spending or any government department, the money to fund growth must be substantial. We can’t keep looking at the same departments again and again to find the savings from their budgets
On Skills, Martin Temple will say:
“Some have argued that we can get more bang for our buck by moving some public spending decisions to a local level. Local Enterprise Partnerships have been given a job to do and they need the tools to do it. But we should not give them new tasks for which they are ill-equipped.
“For example, on skills we have a once in a generation opportunity to strip out the bureaucracy that has plagued business for decades, and create a proper market in training where funding flows through the customer – and that’s the company making the investment. We cannot now afford to undermine this by giving LEPs control over how funding for skills is spent.”
On Infrastructure, Martin Temple will say
“Energy, transport and skills strategy are too important to be left to the whim of partisan politics. If the main parties can broadly agree on a topic as sensitive as pensions, they should be able to agree on the nuts and bolts of growth.
“Successive governments have struggled to make strategic, long-term decisions on the UK’s infrastructure needs, and then forge and sustain a cross-party consensus. That’s why we believe a permanent infrastructure commission should be established. Its membership should be apolitical, it should have the right of initiation, and a remit that extends to evaluating specific options.
“This would take the politics out of infrastructure decisions, and help to deliver the certainty that business needs. And importantly, we not only need to make the right decisions about our infrastructure, but we need to make them at the right time. The planning framework must not prevent shovel-ready projects from getting going, as they do today.”
On Europe, Martin Temple will say
“The outlook here is uncertain but government can provide some clarity by setting out a clear long-term vision about what it wants the EU to look like in the next 10 to 20 years. Above all, we need a much better quality debate about the future of the EU, the benefits it brings to British business and how it needs to change.
“Let’s be clear: most businesspeople think EU membership is crucial. We all know it needs to be reformed, and we support much of what the PM has said recently. By working with like-minded partners in the EU, we can get the changes we need. Recently, we saw how this can work with a deal agreed to cut the EU budget in real terms for the first time ever.
“So the focus of this and future governments should be on working from inside the EU. Government can give business the certainty that it will work tirelessly to help the EU work better for Britain and our European partners as a whole. This should be the starting point – not seeking to renegotiate a uniquely better deal, however enticing that may seem.”