This week saw the latest of the MTA’s regular meetings with Business Secretary Vince Cable. The MTA was represented by President Mark Ridgway, Immediate Past President Simon Pollard, Director General Graham Dewhurst and Head of External Affairs Paul O’Donnell. A wide range of topics was covered, some brought to the table by the MTA and some at the initiative of Dr Cable.
The meeting started with a round-up of how the MTA sees the economic situation and especially how engineering-based manufacturing is faring. The MTA was able to report that the sector, into which our member companies sell most of their products, was outperforming manufacturing in general, with Capital/Investment Goods the only class to show significant, consistent growth. Dr Cable was well briefed about developments in the sector and (not surprisingly, as a former leading economist) understood the differences between the areas that make up the heading ‘Manufacturing’.
A discussion of Capital Allowances had been central to the Association’s previous meeting with Dr Cable in the autumn and the MTA was pleased to be able to confirm that the uprating of the Annual Investment Allowance announced in the Autumn Statement had been well received and was having an effect in the market. However the question was raised as to whether it could be extended further in either or both duration and size. Dr Cable replied that the limited duration was intended to trigger investment in the short term but that tax measures were always under review.
The other big theme of the last meeting was Apprenticeships and here too the MTA was able to give a report of progress, outlining the Employer Ownership of Skill bid that we have made with the AMRC. This is very much in line with Government thinking and we are in full agreement with the need to put employers at the heart of apprenticeship development.
The introduction of a Business Bank is a key part of the Government’s economic strategy and was the subject of a large part of the meeting. There is a lot of debate in policy making circles about how directly the Business Bank will interact with firms in the real economy. The MTA takes the view that it will not be enough for the Business Bank to sit in the background only operating through the existing big (and perhaps some smaller) players. While we don’t want to see a branch of the Business Bank on every high street we do believe that there must be something for businesses to turn to when they have a need that the Business Bank could help with. We also believe that the Business Bank will have failed if it has not affected the general behaviour of the wider financial services market.
It was a really positive meeting for the MTA with Dr Cable asking for further input on a number of points raised. It was particularly gratifying to be able to point to progress on the part of both the Government and the MTA on issues that we had raised six months earlier; connecting what we do in Westminster and Whitehall with benefits for member companies, their customer, clients and partners, in the real economy.