Select Committee on Trade and Industry Third Report


56.   Last December, participants at the Manufacturing Summit held in Birmingham came to broad agreement that the future of UK manufacturing lay in high-technology, high-value added production, which requires a high skills base; and that action would be necessary from Government and industry to improve UK productivity and competitiveness. We endorse that view.

57.   Government, employers and unions all have a part to play in the development of policies and practices which will increase productivity and improve our competitive position on world markets. The manufacturing industry has many examples of successful businesses which are globally competitive in areas such as aerospace, defence, biotechnology and electronics. Other sectors find it more difficult to compete and it is vital that these are given the necessary support to do so, both internationally and on domestic markets.

58.   Several witnesses have expressed their concern that the recent review and reorganisation of the DTI's structure had not provided the focus on manufacturing that was warranted by the importance of the sector to the UK economy. Given the wide range of Government initiatives directly or indirectly aimed at improving productivity, and the large number of departments and agencies, industry organisations and unions involved in the process, it is important that the Government provides that focus. We note that the Government has produced a strategy for manufacturing.[61] This is a more substantive account of activity than was available when the Government gave evidence in the course of our inquiry, but it still shows signs of being a work in progress. What is needed is a focus across the DTI on the relative importance of the manufacturing industry and its needs. Through this, the DTI should lead other government departments, such as the Treasury and the Department for Education and Skills, to give the priority to the needs of manufacturing that its importance to the UK economy deserves.

59.   The three months since we took evidence from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has seen the Budget Statement and the publication of the Government's Manufacturing Strategy. We look forward to further discussion with the Secretary of State on the potential impact on the sector of the former and on the content of the Strategy before the Summer Recess.

61   The Government's Manufacturing Strategy, May 2002 Back

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