Ed Miliband criticises Government decision to ‘axe’ Industrial Strategy
Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband has criticised a decision from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to archive the flagship Industrial Strategy, joining concerns from green groups that the decision could dent business and policymaker relations.
Last week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote to the 16 members of the Industrial Strategy Council, claiming that it would be disbanded in the coming weeks. The Government’s intention is to replace or revamp the Industrial Strategy with a new plan that would boost economic growth as part of a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Unveiled in December 2017, the aim of the Industrial Strategy was to help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs with investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future.
The policy package set out a set of ‘Grand Challenges’ for the UK, including clean growth – defined as decoupling economic growth from emissions and leading the world in the development of low-carbon technologies and solutions which cost less than their traditional counterparts. It is because of the Industrial Strategy that there are sector deals for fields like construction, aviation and offshore wind.
On Tuesday (9 March), Ed Miliband, shadow business secretary criticised the decision, which he claimed has caused “consternation”. Miliband warned that the partnership between business and government – one of the main benefits of rolling energy and climate into business policy as part of the formation of BEIS and the subsequent Industrial Strategy – could be fractured as a result.
The Business Secretary’s decision to axe the Government’s industrial strategy has caused consternation. He cannot deliver the partnership between business and government our country needs because he doesn’t believe in it. pic.twitter.com/qpeLzjVpcJ
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) March 9, 2021
It is yet to be confirmed whether the Strategy will be disbanded entirely, or rebranded as part of a new growth plan. Kwarteng previously said that the Government had “decided to mark a departure from the industrial strategy brand”, hinting that it could be revamped. Murmurs that BEIS itself could be rebranded as a result of this rethink seem to have been quashed, however.
Kwarteng wrote to the 16 members of the council to say: “We have left the European Union with an ambitious free trade agreement and legislated to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and we are working to recover from the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is therefore right that we look again at our long-term plan to drive jobs and economic growth across the UK, drawing on the valuable lessons we have learnt from the 2017 Industrial Strategy.”
Fit for purpose?
The Strategy has been scrutinised in recent years, with many wondering whether it was fit for purpose since the UK’s net-zero target was enshrined into law.
Last year, for example, MPs on the BEIS Committee launched an inquiry into Strategy, questioning whether major updates to the policy package are needed in light of the 2050 net-zero target and the Covid-19 crisis.
With the UK off track to meet its fifth carbon budget and now attempting to grapple with both the climate crisis and the economic fallout of Covid-19, MPs and others have begun to question whether the Industrial Strategy is fit-for-purpose post-2020.
On the clean growth piece specifically, the Strategy was developed at a time when the UK was striving for an 80% fall in net emissions by 2050, against a 1990 baseline.
Elsewhere, Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation told the Guardian that the decision “frustrating”, noting that a “void” could not be left by the departing strategy.