Labour to reveal plan to boost industry

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MOVES to expand industrial investment, curb 'short-termism' and boost small businesses are prominent in a six-point plan for raising UK competitiveness that Labour leaders will release next week.

A statutory right for small businesses to charge interest on late payments and new regulations designed to curb hostile takeovers are among specific proposals contained in the most comprehensive industrial policy document produced by Labour since the general election.

Robin Cook, shadow Trade and Industry Secretary is finalising the document which will pre-empt Michael Heseltine's own White Paper on competitiveness - expected on 16 May - and will be a centrepiece of this year's Labour conference.

Labour says the document follows the most extensive consultation with the Confederation of British Industry and Chambers of Commerce ever undertaken by the party. Because of John Smith's ban on costed commitments in advance of the next election, it will not specify the tax or public expenditure implications of its goals. But they will include:

The need to increase investment in manufacturing. The document will argue that, whereas in the 1960s manufacturing investment never fell below 3 per cent of GDP, it was never above 3 per cent in the 1980s. And it will contrast the UK, where 70 per cent of profits go into dividends rather than investment to the Japanese equivalent figure of 30 per cent.

Moves to curb the 'short- termism' of institutional shareholders. The onus would be on aggressors in hostile takeovers to show a merger would be in the national interest.

Backing for BT's bid to remove the restrictions which it claims are inhibiting it from full-scale national investment in a fibre-optics network.

'Reskilling' of the workforce.

More help for small businesses.

The creation of Regional Development Authorities.