Commenting on the Liberal Democrat manifesto, Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:
“The Liberal Democrats’ proposals for a continuing industrial strategy with innovation and investment at the heart of a drive to secure a long term manufacturing renaissance will be welcomed by companies. The party has set themselves up as the political foot brake in either a Labour or Conservative–led Government, and they do so with a credible track record for backing industry.
“Business will welcome the clear emphasis on economic growth and a skilled workforce to deliver it. The fact this is at the heart of the manifesto shows a clear grasp of what the UK economy needs to propel it forwards.
“There is also a clear commitment to restoring the public finances and balancing the nation’s books, together with a firm determination to keep Britain at the forefront of a reformed Europe, one of the most critical issues facing business in the coming Parliament.
“However, while it presses all the right buttons in terms of industrial strategy the continued stubborn opposition to essential airport expansion will be extremely damaging. The next government must move quickly to act in response to the Davies Commission proposals.”
On support for businesses, Terry Scuoler said:
“There are some ambitious and innovative proposals which manufacturers would want to see reflected in any coalition agreement. Bold increases in the innovation budget are absolutely necessary if the UK is to join the ranks of Europe’s innovation leaders while a strong commitment to driving ahead with a TTIP deal and a dedicated HMRC centre for mid-sized businesses will all strike a chord with industry.”
On infrastructure and airport expansion, Terry Scuoler said:
“Proposals to develop a rolling 10 year capital investment plan are encouraging and a starting point for a more strategic approach to inform future investment decisions. Industry will be looking for more detail on how a long-term approach based on identifying all infrastructure challenges would be developed to ensure more reliable and resilient infrastructure that supports growth and productivity over the long-term.
“Industry will be disappointed at the prejudging of the outcome of the independent Airports Commission. There are no alternatives offered to meet the airport capacity challenge which the Liberal Democrats had the opportunity to develop in this Parliament thus risking further prevarication on this issue.”
On English Devolution, Terry Scuoler said:
“The Liberal Democrats are right to highlight that devolution will not work with a one-size-fits-all solution. With plans to introduce a process of Devolution on Demand in the next Parliament such an approach will better enable a more transparent process, ensuring powers that are transferred will be better embedded at the local level. Industry will be looking for decisions on what should be devolved within England to be based on what is best for boosting growth and whether local areas have the capacity and capability to take on more risk and responsibility.”
On education and skills, Terry Scuoler said:
“Extending the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers and proposals for more sector-led National Colleges demonstrate a commitment to supporting industry in its quest for higher-level vocational skills. The proposed review of higher education finance must include a longer-term approach to capital funding to ensure that universities have the capacity and capital to deliver high-quality STEM courses which are increasingly in demand by employers and learners alike.
“It is good to see some sensible talk on student migration with proposals for a post study work visa for STEM graduates lasting 6 months after graduation. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, the Liberal Democrats should have been bolder and extended the visa for a more substantial period.”
On Tribunal fees, Terry Scuoler said:
“Business will be concerned at any proposed reforms to the employment tribunal system which were long overdue. Manufacturers want proportionate fees for claimants as these have a role in achieving a fair and balanced Employment Tribunal system. Any proposed review must be evidence-based and strike a balance between preventing vexacious claims and allowing access to justice.”
On flexible working and parental rights, Terry Scuoler said:
“With shared parental leave still in its infancy, and the recent expansion of the right to request flexible working, now is not the time to change the highly-complex and overlapping arrangements for carers and parents taking leave. With a proper assessment and robust evidence, an incoming Government should take time to assess what the impact of the recent reforms, including the introduction of shared parental leave, has been before making further changes.”
On Energy and Climate Change, Terry Scuoler said:
“Proposals are mixed in this area. Commitments on industrial energy efficiency and support for greener technologies are to all to be welcomed. However, further government intervention in the energy market, in form of decarbonisation targets and bans on unabated fossil fuel plants, and pledges to continue to increase environmental taxes could prove costly and inefficient ways of achieving our aims.”
On Resources, Terry Scuoler said:
“We welcome proposals to explore the impact of climate change on the availability of future resources, incentives for resource efficiency and the commitment to establish a senior Cabinet Committee to coordinate action across government, with a specific unit working on resource management. It will be important that it also addresses the critical issue of resource security.
“That said, we are concerned that plans around product design and recycling are out of kilter with current discussions in Europe on how to foster a circular economy. Regulation alone will not drive a circular economy. It will be also be important to introduce pull measures and incentives. The economic case must add up to create a stable circular framework and foster competitiveness and productivity gains in tandem.“