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'Give industry a voice in parliament', say MPs

By Gary Scattergood , 05-Nov-2012
Last updated on 05-Nov-2012 at 09:18 GMT

The government should appoint a minister for manufacturing to make sure the industry is adequately represented at Westminster.

That's the view of the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Group, which has published a report stating that a dedicated minister would be "the voice for manufacturing within government and carry out the policies necessary to support the sector".

Its chairman Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington Chris White has urged business secretary Vince Cable to consider the group's calls.

In its report, Developing a modern industrial strategy, the cross-party group of MPs wrote: "The creation of a minister for manufacturing would ensure a more regular dialogue between industry, trade unions and government on issues affecting industry and ensure that there is a constant flow of ideas and information from the sector and policy makers on how we can support growth."

Food and Drink Manufacturing

Its calls were backed by John Stevenson MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Food and Drink Manufacturing.

The Conservative MP for Carlisle added: "It is important that, as a country, we rebalance the economy towards manufacturing and a dedicated minister, with a brief across the sector, would help address this. At the moment, we have business ministers, but understandably they are pulled in many different directions."

Terry Jones, communications director at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) recently said he was concerned that food manufacturers had often "slipped between the cracks" of government departments, most notably the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

However, he said a dedicated minister for manufacturing was not at the top of the FDF's list of priorities.

"Firstly, we have a minister for food and farming, which many industries do not have and, secondly, I think it is more important that we focus on the outcomes for the sector rather than the machinery of government.

Outcomes for the sector

"If I was going to campaign for anything around this it would not be for totemic positions but for more joined-up work across government to benefit the industry in terms of growth, jobs and innovation," he said.

The MPs' report also urged the government to create an Industrial Policy Statement that would lay out proposals to support manufacturing for the next 10 years. This should provide clear objectives for the UK economy and manufacturing's role within it while also stating how the government will develop the manufacturing sector, they stated.