Commenting on the Conservative manifesto, Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:
“The Prime Minister has set strong ambitions for Britain to be the most prosperous economy in the world by 2030. While putting the public finances on a sound footing is rightly the first step on this journey, the big prize has to be tackling our longstanding weak levels of investment and poor productivity, which are areas we have not heard enough about from all main parties to date.
“If the purpose of the manifesto was, however, to provide stability for business about the direction of travel on boosting trade, support for investment in skills, innovation and investment in infrastructure then it has provided a step towards that. However, it is disappointing that the mood music on immigration continues to concern businesses who require access to critical skills from overseas.
“Maintaining the UK’s role at the heart of a reformed EU is absolutely critical for our prosperity and businesses will want reassurance that any future Conservative government will campaign strongly on this basis. Pursuing key trade deals with our European partners and making the EU work better are vital and are key issues that must be highlighted as benefits of membership in any referendum.”
On infrastructure, Terry Scuoler said:
“The strategic road network is the backbone of the UK economy and the glue that holds the rest of the transport network together. Industry will welcome plans to commit to the previously announced road investment strategy. It is crucial, however, that greater levels of investment in infrastructure is not seen as a proxy for job done.
“A long-term approach based on identifying all infrastructure challenges is needed to ensure infrastructure that supports growth and productivity. On this long-term approach the Conservative manifesto is silent.”
On skills, Terry Scuoler said:
“For the UK to truly compete in the global talent race businesses need access to world-class skills. Focusing on industry-led skills initiatives such as National Colleges, University Technical Colleges and giving employers greater control of apprenticeships supports industry’s calls for a demand-led skills system.
“However, measures that focus on home-grown talent should be complemented by widening the talent pool to include skills from overseas. The decision to maintain the cap on skilled non-EU workers and, further reforms to the student visa route, goes against this and will cause great frustration amongst employers.”
On Tax, Terry Scuoler, said:
“The pledges on future tax changes we’ve seen from the Conservatives won’t provide any surprises for businesses. Providing predictability over a major business rates review, retaining the Annual Investment Allowance at a competitive level and a commitment to make the UK tax system attractive for international investments will be welcome as offering some certainty around future changes.”
On clean, affordable and secure energy supplies, Terry Scuoler said:
“The Conservative commitments to cut emissions at least cost, resist further interventions in the energy market and to oppose power sector decarbonisation targets are all to be welcomed. Much of the current climate change policy landscape is inefficient and ineffective at achieving aims, a renewed focus on cost effectiveness can only be a good thing. It is therefore somewhat confusing to see a promise to end further support for onshore wind, one of the most cost effective forms of low carbon energy. Such a policy would virtually guarantee consumers end up paying more for energy than necessary.”
On an Office of Resource Management, Terry Scuoler said:
“We are disappointed that the Conservative Party has not committed to establishing an Office of Resource Management. This would have brought the UK in line with other strong manufacturing nations, which already have strategies in place to shield their economies from resource risks.”