Shadow business secretary speaks on industrial policy at IOP
15 October 2013
The UK can succeed in an increasingly competitive environment but its economy must diversify and achieve a better balance, shadow business, innovation and skills secretary Chuka Umunna told an audience at the IOP’s London centre on 14 October.
Speaking to business representatives at a meeting of the Industry Forum, he said the focus of industrial policy had to be on long-term growth and the structure of the economy.
Following the financial crisis, we could not just return to “business as usual” with an over-reliance on financial services or stoking up demand in the housing market, he said. Instead, there had to be an emphasis on achieving more growth through exporting, on science, innovation and research, and on building a skilled workforce.
There had to be changes in financial services, including more competition in the banking sector, as “so many profitable businesses can’t get access to the finance that they need”, he said. Umunna pledged that, if elected in 2015, Labour would establish a state-backed investment bank. It would also use government procurement to back British companies and its industrial strategy would put more emphasis on the regions, he said.
The last Labour government had done much to increase the number of people going into higher education, he said, but should have given equal emphasis to those taking a non-academic route as technicians or apprentices. Labour wanted to see more apprenticeships but these had to be of good quality by being set at Level 3 and lasting at least two years, he said. It would also insist that young people should study English and maths until the age of 18.
After his speech, Umunna answered questions on issues including regulation and red tape in Europe, energy policy, a low carbon strategy and the uptake of innovations by the NHS. The meeting was chaired by IOP fellow Rod Dowler, who is chair of the Industry Forum, which is inviting a number of policymakers to address its members.
The IOP is one of the Industry Forum’s sponsors, and IOP chief executive Prof. Paul Hardaker welcomed Umunna to the Institute, which was well-placed to take a broad perspective on industry and innovation, he said. Prof. Hardaker said the IOP was beginning to formulate its proposals for what the political parties should be saying about science and innovation at the next election.