This week, I’d like to talk in detail about a subject close to my heart and vital to our recovery as a country – manufacturing.
I have always said we need to get back to actually making things in Britain, and finally now we are making it happen. As a government, we are trying to re-balance our economy away from banking and back to manufacturing and exports. Behind all the doom and gloom in the national media, British manufacturing has been bouncing back from the recession and is now worth £140bn to our economy every year.
On Tuesday evening, I was lucky enough to be a guest of the Food and Drink Federation and watched Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable speak on the future of British manufacturing. On Wednesday, I attended the Associate Parliamentary Group on Manufacturing, of which I am a member, and on Thursday I visited Warwick University to learn about their new partnership with Jaguar, where the university’s research will generate new high-tech car systems that can be manufactured here in Britain.
After decades of neglect, while governments of both other parties put all of their eggs in one basket by prioritising banking and service industries, I am proud to be a member of the most pro-manufacturing government in generations. Our Government has cut corporation tax to encourage businesses to start up and companies abroad to invest in places like Burnley; we have the lowest corporation tax in the G7, making Britain one of the best places in the world for any business to invest. Micro-businesses, with 10 employees or less, will now be exempt from all new UK regulations for the next three years and all business rules will now be reviewed every five years to ensure they are still doing their job. One of the things I hear most from constituents who own or run small businesses is tthey feel tied up in endless red tape, so it’s a great thing to be part of a Government committed to helping businesses grow by freeing them up from unnecessary regulations.
Our Government has also set up the Enterprise Champions Programme, where local schools can design and run small enterprises and give children valuable insight into how to run businesses from an early age. We are setting up Enterprise Societies with 89 universities and 160 further education colleges across the country, where more advanced business and enterprise skills can be passed on to young people before they enter the jobs market. Another scheme is the Tenner Tycoon programme, where young people can build their business skills – more than 25,000 boys and girls took part last year. The link running through all of this is that we are not just encouraging businesses today, we are instilling the skills and values of business and industry into future generations, investing in their education to ensure they become the world business leaders of tomorrow.
Another point of pride is that the UK has now become the first county in the developed world to set legally binding carbon-reduction budgets going well into the 2020s. We are world leaders in this area, and that isn’t only great news for the environment. Being at the forefront of carbon reduction also means we will now become the most desirable location for investment in green technology and renewable energy. The Government has set up a green investment bank with £3bn to invest in green technologies and that is going to be easily outmatched by the billions of pounds of private investment and thousands of jobs our new carbon budgets and Green Deal will help create. All of these are massive victories for the Liberal Democrats in Government – no other party would have put anything like this in place.
It has been an inspiring week and one that only adds to my confidence that, once we’ve overcome the economic mess we’ve been left, Britain is going to flourish. With an economy geared to actually making things, and with young men and women taught the value and potential of business skills from an early age, our future will be bright. Here in Burnley, which is in pole position because of the size of our manufacturing base, we are going to see growing investment, new apprenticeships, and new businesses all over, as we get our real economy back on track after decades of neglect.