What manufacturers make of plans for an Industrial Strategy Council

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Last August we set out the missing elements of the industrial strategy in a policy digest. One of these elements was the need for a much clearer vision of what success would look like with strong metrics, otherwise how will we know the strategy is working and what government policy should focus on as a result.

 

1-Clearer-vision-of-success-needed 

In response the government signalled in the final draft of the strategy that they would create an Industrial Strategy Council. Following engagement with manufacturers, this blogs looks at how that Council could be put to good use.

The creation of a Council should not, however, be seen as an end in itself, ultimately the industrial strategy is about enabling businesses to adapt their own strategies to boost productivity and with it earning power across the country, the Council is a tool in support of that.

Read Next: This is what manufacturers think about the industrial strategy white paper

 

The Industrial Strategy Council - what we know

The 254 pages of the industrial strategy white paper contained just two paragraphs on the creation of an Industrial Strategy Council, signalling more than anything else that the industrial strategy is very much a working document:

“We will create an independent Industrial Strategy Council that will develop measures to assess and evaluate our Industrial Strategy and make recommendations to the government.

“The Council will have access to relevant government data and will be funded to commission specific evaluation projects as appropriate. It will be drawn from leading business men and women, investors, economists and academics from across the UK.”


Alongside the Council, the Economy and Industrial Strategy Cabinet Committee, will be responsible for setting out a vision and ensuring cross-government collaboration and policy inconsistency can be addressed.

 

Guiding principles manufacturers will be judging the council against

Our engagement with members has drawn out the following guiding principles for developing Terms of Reference and membership.

Cement business confidence

Not all businesses will take notice of the industrial strategy, and arguably if it is working well, not many should. However for those that do take an interest, particularly multi-country operators that monitor the policy landscape in different jurisdictions closely.

The Council must play an important role in demonstrating that at the heart of government judgements are being made on industrial strategy policy consistency and the overall progress being made.

 

Enable more effective policy making

The work of the council should lead to more effective policy making, ensuring that new decisions are taken with long-term impacts in mind.

It can do this by red-flagging proposals prior to implementation as an early warning, but it must not be drawn into evaluating the efficacy of spending as this would replicate work done by other parts of government.

 

Command support from all political parties

Manufacturers are pragmatic and recognise that political parties come with their different approaches to the economy and different overall goals for industrial strategy.

However the Industrial Strategy Council should be seen by all parties as an enabler of more effective policy making as it will be judging a government's stated industrial strategy aims against action.

 

Be effective behind the scenes

While some businesses may be looking for their 'person in the fight', pragmatic companies will recognise that it is more important that the Council's work is regarded as independent and effective than seen as publicly critical of government.

How should the Industrial Strategy Council operate?

Operationally, the Council should adopt the best from available models such as the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), the Low Pay Commission (LPC) and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). We propose:

  1. The Council should be an independent advisory body (RPC, LPC).
  2. Its Charter should outline a clear remit to monitor progress against defined goals set out by government (OBR, RPC).
  3. It should produce an annual report (one month) after the Queen’s speech with a report on progress on metrics, dialogue with departments on policy consistency and judgements on the legislative programme and the implications for industrial strategy goals.
  4. The council should not make recommendations on what future policy should be.
  5. To cement that the industrial strategy is whole of government, the Council should sit in the Cabinet Office at the heart of government.
  6. An LPC model of appointed commissioners balanced across this discipline with a BEIS Select Committee approved Chair would be an appropriate appointments model, and this would help to command cross party support.
  7. Members of the Council should be appointed in an individual capacity.

Over the coming weeks we'll be working with government to ensure the Industrial Strategy Council is set up to play a meaningful role in meeting the ambition behind the industrial strategy.

Author

Head of Business Environment Policy

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