Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May vows to shape 'stronger future' as she unveils industrial strategy

Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Government's new industrial strategy for a post-Brexit Britain as she held her first Cabinet meeting in the regions.

Mrs May and 30 ministers met at a science park and business incubator in Daresbury, near Warrington, Cheshire to discuss a new approach for the UK as the country prepares to exit the European single market.

The plans include a £556 million boost for the so-called "northern powerhouse", an overhaul of technical education and £170m cash for a new emphasis on science, technology, engineering and innovation.

The Prime Minister opened the cabinet meeting with an address to her ministers on the new strategy for industry.

She said: "This is a very important part of our plan for Britain. This is how we shape a stronger future for the UK and also ensure we are building a fairer Britain and a better Britain.

"And I think it is absolutely right we are launching this strategy, here in the north west, because one of the themes that underpins what we are doing in the industrial strategy and underpins our plan for Britain, is ensuring we drive growth across the whole of the UK, that we ensure that we are building on the strengths of different parts of our economy and different parts of the UK, and that we see prosperity and opportunity spread across the country so everybody has those opportunities to get on in life.

"And you'll see through the industrial strategy, the pillars that are in here, the importance of issues like infrastructure, skills, ensuring young people have the skills they need for the future, working, looking at the way in which clusters can help to drive economic growth.

"We are seeing that very clearly here at Daresbury, I've just been hearing about the work that is done, the new companies that are brought together here and accessing facilities.

"This is all about driving our economy for the future.

"This is important anyway, but as we leave the European Union we want to ensure that we are that truly global Britain with an economy that is in the right shape for the future and driving that growth, so that we really do have an economy in the country that works for everyone.

"So, there's a lot of work to be done and I suggest we just get on with it."

Later Mrs May will go on a tour of Sci-Tech Daresbury, which was set up in 2006 by developers Langtree, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and Halton Borough Council.

Currently around 1,200 people work on site, including about 500 scientists working in a variety of fields including advanced engineering, digital/ICT, biomedical and energy and environmental technologies.

Labour former Cabinet minister Lord Hutton, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, said the move marked a major shift in Government outlook.

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "I think, if you look at the last 30 or 40 years, it is, actually, quite a big shift in the thinking of a Conservative Government, and is something I really strongly welcome. I think it's a very significant shift."

Later, the Prime Minister denied there was no new money or strategy and today's grand launch was just a re-hash of the Autumn Statement.

Mrs May said: "We have already seen the investment that's been put in, in the Northern Powerhouse, today £556 million of local growth funding for the Northern Powerhouse has been announced.

"The money was set out in the Autumn Statement, what we are doing today is showing where that money is going in the different parts of the Northern Powerhouse, for example just over £70 million to Liverpool, £130 million for Greater Manchester and various other parts of the Northern Powerhouse receiving that funding.

"The investment that's being put in to the North West will translate into jobs for families, but the industrial strategy that we are launching today, and we will be consulting with businesses on this because we want to ensure that we get this right, is about the long term. It's about the future of a global Britain. Once we leave the European Union I'm ambitious for the opportunities for Britain.

"I think we are now uniting as a country and saying, 'Let's look to what the future can bring, how can we shape a better future.'

"That's about more prosperity, more economic growth, more jobs for families in the North West and across the whole of the United Kingdom."

Sir Brendan Barber, chairman of Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), said: "I welcome the Government's new industrial strategy. A strong economy where the UK's productivity levels are comparable to the best in the world will reap benefits to both employers and employees.

"Well managed, efficient and innovative workplaces are key to unlocking productivity and can help realise the goals of the Government's industrial strategy.

"Acas has identified seven levers of workplace productivity that can help make it happen."

Shadow business secretary Clive Lewis described the announcement as " full of rhetoric and thin on detail".

"From business rates to Brexit, many of businesses' most pressing concerns are currently going unanswered," said Mr Lewis.

"Unless the Government puts a lot of flesh on these bones, this will be a strategy of spin rather than substance."

Liberal Democrat industrial spokesman Lord Fox said that the document failed to mention "the biggest danger facing British industry" - reduced access to the EU single market and the possible loss of customs union membership.

"The Government says it doesn't want to pick winners, but there are plenty of losers in this document," said Lord Fox.

"There is nothing to indicate which sectors will be the Government's focus for tariff-free access to the single market.

"The Government has no idea what it will do for Brexit, and therefore no industrial strategy."