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Call for a national plan for manufacturing

Onward, a think-tank campaigning for “mainstream conservatism”, has called on the government to produce a national plan for manufacturing. 

Its report, Making a comeback – how a manufacturing renaissance can level up the country, also includes these recommendations: 

  • public procurement reform to benefit UK suppliers; 

  • an extension of the super-deduction for plant and machinery beyond 2023; 

  • long-term funding for established programmes such as the Catapult centres and Made Smarter; 

  • measures to boost SMEs’ access to finance; and 

  • long-term policies to reduce energy and transport costs. 

Onward was formed in 2018 by Will Tanner, a former advisor to Theresa May and is chaired by Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein.  It has strong links to the “levelling up taskforce” of 60 North of England Conservative MPs, which is supporting the latest report. 


 Also published this week is a report from All-Party Manufacturing Group at Westminster.  Its main recommendations are: 

  • a national advice and support service “to put UK manufacturing at the heart of recovery from the pandemic and beyond to net-zero”.  The service would build the Made Smarter initiative; 

  • accelerate the timescale for delivery of a world-beating product standards and consumer labelling system; 

  • mandate training on climate change and decarbonisation within Local Skills Improvement Plans; 

  • make the Green Jobs Taskforce permanent and extend its membership. 


Comment:  These two reports highlight lobbying of government to increase support for manufacturing and engineering.  EAMA has urged support for improving competitiveness of SMEs, greater understanding of what is available in the UK and what is not – but perhaps needs to be; and greater collaboration across sectors and between large companies and their suppliers.  It is important to invest in supporting firms that can drive the economy forward, as well as to support firms hit hard by the pandemic.   

A contentious issue at present is how to address the skills shortage, which has been made worse by the pandemic and Brexit.  At issue is whether the current difficulties are temporary or systemic and therefore more long-lasting. 

HM Treasury is currently working on its Spending Review and only when it is published will we have a clearer idea of government’s intentions.  For the moment, ministers are saying little. 

Also expected shortly are a revised Export Strategy from Department for International Trade and an Innovation Strategy from BEIS, as well as other reports related to achieving Net Zero by 2050.