CBI attacks lack of industry policy

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The Independent Online
THE CONFEDERATION of British Industry yesterday launched an attack on the Government's lack of a coherent industrial policy and called on the Prime Minister to publish a White Paper setting out its attitude towards manufacturing.

In a memorandum to senior ministers, the employers' organisation criticises the lack of a clear lead from the Government and says that the much-vaunted partnership between government and industry promised by John Major, the Prime Minister, had so far failed to materialise.

The critique would have coincided with Michael Heseltine's return to the Department of Trade and Industry after his heart attack in June had this not been postponed because the President of the Board of Trade has flu.

The CBI document argues that partly because of policy errors Britain has slipped to sixteenth in the World Economic Forum's list of 22 OECD countries ranked by competitiveness. It goes on to identify seven areas of policy where the Government could do more to promote steady non-inflationary growth by improving the competitiveness of industry and commerce.

The list includes public expenditure and taxation, where the CBI wants public spending cut by pounds 10bn and the burden of taxation reduced to the levels of competitor nations such as the United States and Japan, and other areas such as education, transport, deregulation and support for exporters, small businesses and inward investment.

Although the memorandum spans the work of several departments it is primarily aimed at Mr Heseltine, Mr Major and the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, whom the CBI hopes will be influenced in preparing the broad policy framework of his first Budget next month.

Howard Davies, the CBI's director-general, stressed that it was not asking for an industrial strategy from the Government, much less a return to direct intervention. What it was seeking was a clear definition of what the Government thought its policy to industry was.

Ministers from Mr Major downwards had variously promised intervention on behalf of industry, partnerships with industry and policies for growth and jobs.

But Mr Davies said: 'None of these things have gone beyond aspirations and none have been fleshed out anywhere.'

Manufacturing matters, page 33