Business Secretary urged to rename Government’s industrial strategy

Greg Clark
Greg Clark

A Tory MP has told Business Secretary Greg Clark to drop the words “industrial” and “strategy” from the Government’s industrial strategy.

Bedford MP Richard Fuller said he would prefer the title of “competition, innovation and skills policies” for the Government’s new approach to business.

The minister also faced accusations from Labour of behaving like Scrooge over the flagship policy, amid light-hearted exchanges in the Commons.

Mr Clark told Business questions that the strategy would help make Britain the best place for businesses to locate, as he also criticised Labour’s record on industry while in Government.

Mr Fuller, a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee, said: “As he develops his industrial strategy, may I give him some friendly advice to drop the word
’industrial’, and drop the word ’strategy’, and replace them with the words ’competition, innovation and skills policies’.”

In reply, Mr Clark said the industrial strategy would take a different approach to many, such as also incorporating the services sector.

He added: “One of the differences is this will not be about simply addressing the needs of incumbents.

“We want to make Britain the best place, the most competitive, the most contestable place for businesses to locate.

“I’d be grateful if he would contribute to it, but I think he will find it’s going to be music to his ears.”

However, shadow business minister Chi Onwurah said Mr Clark had only offered “bland generalities” about the strategy, and warned about a fall in investment from businesses next year.

She added: “There are great opportunities for British business post-Brexit, but they need the leadership and this climate of uncertainty is toxic to investment.

“Will the secretary of state stop playing Scrooge with his assurances, and give British business the Christmas present it wants, an industrial strategy?”

Mr Clark responded that a bit of optimism would not go amiss from Labour at Christmas, as he said there was “huge enthusiasm and engagement” from businesses.

He added that Ms Onwurah may have been too distracted by events in her own party to notice major announcements such as a new runway at Heathrow, Hinkley Point and HS2.

“We have done more in five months in putting our industrial future onto the right footing than the previous government did in 13 years,” Mr Clark said.