Iain Wright MP is the Shadow Minister for Industry
In every corner of this country we have dynamic, enterprising businesses, keen to expand, break into new markets, invent and improve products and processes and employ more people. This is particularly true in manufacturing; the sneering, dismissive retort of "we don't make anything in this country anymore" is simply untrue. A strong manufacturing sector is the driver of improving productivity, accelerated innovation and higher skills and wages throughout all parts of the economy. Labour recognises the importance of manufacturing.
Labour is committed to working actively and strategically with business to tap into this huge potential. We have therefore made a long-term approach to growth a key pillar of its Agenda 2030, launched by Chuka Umunna earlier this year.
Government can support firms in taking a long term perspective by reforming corporate governance to encourage responsibility at the top, consistently favouring long-term investment through the encouragement of patient capital to SMEs, utilising capital allowance systems that favour long-term investment and putting in place effective intellectual property policies that incentivise innovation.
But if we are asking firms to take a long-term perspective, policy makers need to set an example with a clear long-term vision for the future of British industry, something that has proved sorely lacking under the Tory-led Government. We need an ambitious industrial strategy to support the development of UK industry in targeted sectors. Many industrial sectors that our competitors are investing in – new energy, energy conservation, biotechnology, clean energy vehicles – are sectors in which Britain has a competitive edge, but ones which we risk losing because of a lack of clear direction from the Government. One way Labour would support target sectors by shaping government procurement rules to reward productive British businesses who invest for the long-term, embrace innovation and training and nurture their staff.
Perhaps most important of all to a long term approach, and where this country has failed badly in the past, is in delivering the long-term infrastructure business needs to succeed. That is why Ed Miliband has committed Labour to act on Sir John Armitt’s recommendations to establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission, ending the short-termism which has left the UK lagging behind in key areas like communications and transport infrastructure.
The rewards of a successful long-term approach are huge – more prosperity, more jobs, improved and well-financed public services and a better standard of living for all. The costs of failure and missed opportunities are equally high. We need to have active government working with business to realise our huge potential.