1 March 2017

  |  CBI Press Team

Update

Carolyn speaks on Industrial Strategy and the Midlands Engine

The Government must answer five questions that will make Industrial Strategy a success, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn will say.

Carolyn speaks on Industrial Strategy and the Midlands Engine

Speaking to an audience of 120 local business leaders from across the Midlands at the National Space Centre in Leicester, she will praise steps taken by Government to help businesses become more competitive. 

But she will also say that the Government must sharpen its focus to make Industrial Strategy the foundation for success firms are looking for.

Finally, Carolyn will set out the role of the CBI in bringing together firms from across the Midlands – East and West – to help the Midlands Engine unlock economic growth.

On Industrial Strategy, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, will say:

“This Industrial Strategy needs to be different. In a transforming world, it creates the opportunity we urgently need to strengthen the foundations of our economy - from skills and infrastructure to research and innovation. It must be used to create the conditions for prosperity in all corners of the UK. And it must build on the extraordinary assets of UK firms and people.

“The Government’s Green Paper is a good starting point. But as first draft becomes final version, there are some important questions that need answering.

“First, vision - what does success look like in 5, 10 and 15 years from now? What kind of economy does the UK want to be, beyond the characteristics we all agree on, like productive and inclusive? There will be hard choices. 

“Second, measurement – what targets will be put in place? The Government needs to define its success in terms of measures and performance indicators. This is the bedrock of accountability and should be independently verified. 

“Third, world-beating sectors - will all sectors have deals with the Government, or only some? If the answer is some, then which ones and why? Automotive and aerospace are bright examples of sound industrial strategy – the plan should replicate this success.

“Fourth, focus. What is the hard-edged action plan that sits behind the 10 pillars? The current Green Paper lists many routes for change. The White Paper needs to prioritise, focus on doing a few things well, with clear actions and milestones.

“And fifth, consistency. What is the Government’s plan to ensure everything does not change again in 3 years’ time? Firms need consistency and predictability. There are too many historic examples of flash-in-the-pan industrial strategies – this one must be different.

“So it’s crucial that that business and the Government works together on a shared vision for our future economy at this crucial stage in the UK’s history.”

On the Midlands Engine, Carolyn will say:

“Business is ready to step up and make the Midlands Engine a success. At the CBI, we will do everything we can to bring companies together from across the region. We’ve already done this through ‘Business North’, created last year to challenge and support the Government and drive the Northern Powerhouse forward. We need to build the same partnership here, and with a distinct Midlands accent.

“Today’s meeting between CBI councils from both sides of the Midlands is a big step forward. It’s not a choice between East or West, but between higher or lower growth, more or fewer jobs, high or flat investment.  It’s a choice between succeeding together or failing separately. It’s about putting the long-term economic benefits ahead of short-term political goals.”  

On the strengths of the Midlands, Carolyn will say:

“What would a Midlands Industrial Strategy look like?  Well, if the solution to growing our regions is fundamentally local, then we need to trust local firms to know what’s best. 

“We know the Midlands is a world leader in automotive, from Jaguar Land Rover in Coventry to Toyota in Derby. And the National Space Centre represents another of the Midlands’ strengths – aerospace.

“The next time the world’s largest passenger airline the Airbus A380 touches down in Hong Kong, the passengers can be safe in the knowledge that parts made by 70 Midlands suppliers in Rugby, Hereford, Lincoln, Malvern and many more took the journey with them.

“But we know the region has its challenges and the best way to level the playing field is education and skills.  So we should attract our best and brightest into classrooms by incentivising STEM students to become teachers. We should build links between schools and local businesses by putting a career leader in every school. And we should broaden young people’s horizons beyond purely ‘academic’ by increasing resources for high-quality technical routes.”