CBI launches manifesto to promote British industry

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The Independent Online

The Confederation of British Industry will today launch a manifesto for the promotion of Britain's manufacturing sector, as the campaign to rebalance the economy intensifies.

The CBI will call for a new focus on manufacturing, which it says has been neglected over the past two decades in favour of the services sector and financial services and the City in particular.

The manifesto is being published as a Government review of the manufacturing industries gathers pace. Ministers are due to report back shortly on an official inquiry into how the sector, particularly more high-tech manufacturers, can be encouraged and bolstered

While the manufacturing sector has been one of the strongest performing parts of the UK's economy since the end of the recession a year ago, it remains relatively small, accounting for less than 20 per cent of GDP.

The CBI's statistics reveal that while manufacturers have posted growth over the past 15 years, other developed economies have eclipsed the UK. Exports of manufactured goods from Britain grew by an average of 4 per cent during the period between 1997 and 2007, only half the 8 per cent average growth seen in the OECD as a whole.

While the traditional image of manufacturing is of blue-collar, low-tech industry, many companies have transformed themselves in recent times. Productivity has improved by 50 per cent since 1997, official figures show, while the sector now accounts for three-quarters of the UK's research and development spending, as well as 46 per cent of exports.

The CBI will call for a shake up of the tax rules and regulation to encourage manufacturing, and for work to further relationships between universities and industry.

It also wants the Government to set targets for improving productivity growth from 4 to 5 per cent a year, raising export growth to the OECD average and building leadership in innovation.

"UK manufacturing is in many ways the unsung hero of our economy – big productivity gains in the past 10 years have made it leaner than ever before and it's now well-placed to lead the country's economic recovery," John Cridland, who will shortly become the CBI's director-general, said.

"To achieve this, however, the Government must act fast," he said.