The TUC has called on the government to adopt a modern industrial strategy that builds on current policies aimed at boosting skills, innovation and research and development (R&D) as well as developing new ways to support specific sectors of the economy.
In a report submitted to the DTI – An Industrial Policy for the United Kingdom – the TUC says that manufacturing matters because of its importance to international trade and because large-scale manufacturing closures and job losses cause social dislocation as well as have an adverse impact on the economy.
The government needs to move beyond its current approach of supporting skills and investment in R&D, and learn from the kind of ‘smart support’ for sectors and companies more common in mainland Europe, the report says.
In particular the paper calls for recognition of ‘national champions’ that will be eligible for government support, either in response to a one-off financial difficulty or to restructure in times of economic change.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: “Industrial policy in the UK is too often presented as two extreme alternatives. On the one hand, large-scale nationalisation or picking winners, and at the other, extreme hands-off laissez faire.
“Other countries do not have these hang-ups and can combine market incentives with smart support for key strategic sectors, getting the best of both worlds. We should do the same.”
A copy of the report can be found at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/industrial.pdf