The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) welcomed the focus on investment in skills, infrastructure and research and development (R&D). Its director general said: “If we are to unlock the productivity potential within UK food and drink manufacturing, then boosting skills, innovation and exports will be critical.
“We hope to see an acknowledgement of the progress of our work to support these priorities in next week’s Industrial Strategy White Paper.”
The EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said the commitment to an industrial strategy and support for manufacturing, innovation and new technology was “a welcome stiffener for business”.
‘Welcome stiffener for business’
“The chancellor's explicit pledge to deliver an implementation plan ahead of Brexit will reassure companies of the government’s intent, giving business certainty amid gathering Brexit jitters,” said Scuoler.
The organisation also welcomed the plan to extend the National Productivity Fund for a further year to £31bn to upgrade Britain’s economic infrastructure and the extension of the R&D tax credit.
The budget also won praise from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Its director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Against a sombre economic backdrop, the chancellor today gripped the steering wheel on the UK economy. This is a budget that balances support for people on squeezed incomes with vital action to help grow the UK out of austerity. But delivery is everything.”
Action on business rates, R&D tax credits, the National Productivity Investment Fund and Brexit planning will help firms to invest and grow today against an uncertain Brexit backdrop, she added.
Building a skills system that supports the fourth industrial revolution was the right ambition, but the approach needed to be joined-up with the National Retraining Partnership delivering a stable approach and apprenticeship levy flexibility.
Supports the fourth industrial revolution
“And by making the most of tomorrow’s technologies, including increasing investment in R&D and fuelling innovation the government will help create a virtuous circle by drawing in private sector funding,” said Fairbairn.
“The challenge now is to turn words into action. For government and business, this starts next week with the Industrial Strategy.”
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the chancellor’s decision to freeze beer duty and cancel his planned rise is an early Christmas present for beer drinkers and pubgoers worth £117M this year and in subsequent years.
“It will secure over 3,000 jobs in pubs and the wider beer supply chain that would otherwise have been lost,” said its chief executive Brigid Simmonds.
But the National Farmers Union (NFU) was disappointed to see “no meaningful measures to help prepare farming businesses for life outside the EU”.
‘No meaningful measures’
“With most of the emphasis on urban growth, there is little in the way of measures to benefit rural communities,” said its president Meurig Raymond. However, he added that it was “a fairly stable budget” that did not appear to have any adverse impact on the farming sector.
“In these times of uncertainty, and ahead of significant upheaval, we need to have sustainable and viable businesses producing the nation’s food. Our calls to create the right environment for investing in farming, to mitigate risks, are yet to be answered,” he said.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) welcomed the freeze on fuel duty but said a cut would have done far more to boost the economy.
Freezing fuel duty revealed “a real lack of ambition”, said the group’s head of national policy Christopher Snelling.
“The cost of moving goods around the country and overseas determines the cost of doing business in Britain and the price of goods in our shops,” he said. “At a time when British business is under extreme pressure to prove its credentials and reinforce existing trading relationships, Hammond has missed an opportunity to cut these costs, and make the UK a more competitive place to do business.”
Meanwhile, here’s what leading organisations wanted the budget to deliver.