Commenting on the Labour manifesto published today, Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:
“Labour is at pains to demonstrate fiscal responsibility and its proposals to focus on a long-term industrial strategy and keep Britain at the heart of the EU are welcome. But the real focus of a new Government must be sustaining growth by completing the job of rebalancing the economy.
“The party’s manifesto highlights some of the key foundations for doing so, such as the promise to invest in infrastructure and make a rapid decision on airport capacity.
“However, employers will be concerned by some employment proposals which threaten to have a negative impact on the UK’s flexible labour market.”
On a long term funding settlement for Science and innovation, Terry Scuoler said:
“A continuing commitment to protect large areas of spending will leave a future Labour government with some challenging decisions on where cuts will fall. Their manifesto pledge to provide long-term funding settlements for science and innovation with the aim of securing the UK’s place as a world leader in these areas would go some way to providing certainty and stability in these vital areas of investment.”
On infrastructure, Terry Scuoler said:
“Labour is right to recognise that taking a long term approach to investing in infrastructure is a sure way to boost overall productivity in the UK. Their commitment to follow through on long-term investment in strategic roads, make a swift decision following the recommendation of the Airports Commission and to set up an independent body to assess long-term infrastructure requirements across the country will all be welcomed by industry."
On Devolution, Terry Scuoler said:
“Putting economic growth at the heart of the debate on English devolution is something industry would like to see from all political parties. Ending a century of centralisation in the space of a couple of years could cause fractures in the business environment, just as the economy is showing signs of recovery.
“Success will be better guaranteed and entrenched where devolution is based on the capability and capacity of local areas to deliver more strategically across borders. This should happen when they are ready, not through top down enforced change. Starting off in areas such as local transport and further business rates retention is the right approach to foster such a strategic approach.”
On a flexible labour market, Terry Scuoler said:
“The UK’s flexible labour market underpins the success many of the UK’s businesses, particularly SMEs. Labour’s plans focus on the exception to this, not the rule as Zero-hours contracts and agency workers account for small numbers of the total workforce. Responsible employers recognise the need for a fair and balanced labour market, but also a fair and balanced employment tribunal system as well.”
On Apprenticeships, Terry Scuoler said:
“The focus on increasing the quality of apprenticeships will send a strong signal to industry that Labour is committed to driving up the status of vocational education. However, Labour must be mindful that there has been an array of recent initiatives in this space and avoid the constant change that has previously left employers and learners bewildered.
“The commitment to give employers control of apprenticeship funding paves the way for creating a truly demand-led system. Apprenticeships should not however be seen as conditions to meet for businesses winning government contracts or recruiting highly skilled employees from overseas.”
On Energy Market Reform, Terry Scuoler said:
“Whilst Labour is correct to highlight the issue of rising energy prices, the nature and scale of its proposals does cause concern; the prospect of yet more intervention into the market right on the back of electricity market reform will ensure continued uncertainty in the market, further delay investments and could in fact end up costing energy consumers money.
“It would be prudent to wait until the conclusion of the Competition and Markets Authority investigation at the end of this year instead of forging ahead without the necessary information at hand.“
On green jobs, Terry Scuoler said:
“Labour’s continued commitment to making the UK a world leader in low-carbon technologies is welcome but efforts to green our economy must embrace all sectors, including more traditional, energy-intensive industries. Labour should also avoid relying on domestic carbon reduction targets, which add to costs for these sectors and discourage investment in innovation."
On an Office for Resource Management, Terry Scuoler said:
“Whilst Labour have announced they will conduct a raw material supply review and have made supportive comments about establishing an Office of Resource Management, we are disappointed this has not yet been converted into a meaningful commitment in their manifesto.
“Committing to both would bring the UK in line with other manufacturing nations, which already have strategies in place to shield their economies from resource risks. There is still time for Labour to make a firm commitment to action here. Doing so would secure broad support from manufacturers.”