Are you listening?

As election day nears, industry figures tell the politicians what is best for business

The major decision facing the next government must be joining the single European currency.

I believe strongly that it is possible to have a European market without having a common currency.

The issue has to be seriously thought through. The political debate so far has been weak and shallow. The different trading histories of the different countries mean that the various economies move in different cycles and times – not allowing for divergence.

I am delighted to see that during the election campaign manufacturing has not become a political football.

The wealth creating role of manufacturing must not, however, be forgotten after the election.

I also believe the Birmingham Northern Relief Road must be built. A recommendation should be coming out just after the election.

There is a desperate need for it, not only to relieve traffic jams in the Midlands but to ease jams for Ireland and the whole north west side of England, Scotland and Wales.

Bill Good, managing director, Sterling Tubes and Sandvik Steel UK

Whichever government comes in should continue incentives for small investors to back start-up and innovative companies through initiatives such as the Business Expansion Scheme and the Enterprise Investment Scheme.

In the first scheme investment was skewed too much towards property. Legislation could be oriented to favour companies with products requiring development engineering lasting several years in the pre-market phase.

Second, reform of the procedures for the Transport and Works Act, which are a huge barrier to implementing environmentally benign and energy efficient street tramway systems.

Third, to change the way the Overseas Development Agency spends its money. Too much goes into crisis relief. I believe money would be better spent in encouraging economic development. The ODA should be seeking to supply appropriate technology from the UK which would enable people in the third world to set up businesses, such as making bricks and tiles, and help to create employment and wealth.

John Parry, chairman, Parry Associates

For TI the single currency is not an issue. Less than 20% of our business is in the UK and the group has not been hit by swingeing currency losses.

We do business in other countries, rather than with them. TI trades in 31 discrete currencies around the world and tends to supply customers from bases in their country of operation. So the export content within the group is small, and our exposure to exchange rates is mainly in translation rather than transaction costs.

The European Union’s persistence with EMU is tantamount to economic suicide. We certainly wouldn’t want to be taken into a common currency as conditions stand. Many countries are fudging the convergence criteria to meet the deadline and in the process the economies of Germany and France are plummeting while the UK flourishes.

We certainly don’t want all the social costs, inflexibility and labour practices the Social Chapter would bring. Above all, we want consistency and stability of government policy so we can plan our business.

John Potter, managing director for operations, TI Group

Whatever the next government, it must have a clear policy towards Europe, and from my perspective that has to be a positive policy towards Europe – we can’t conceive of existing outside it.

And there should be a positive policy towards investment in industry and in particular the aerospace industry. This should be recognised for what it is – a major export success and, certainly in major parts of the industry, world-leading.

It deserves the support of whichever government comes in.

Chris Geoghegan, managing director, BAe Airbus

Whoever forms the next government has a final opportunity to come to terms with the need to decide a really cohesive and dynamic strategy to strengthen and expand the UK’s industrial base.

There is a tremendous opportunity, probably the best since 1945, to capitalise on the economic base of the country which is now fundamentally very sound. We have a lot of innovation skills, the quality of management has never been so great and is getting better and better, and we own many highly sophisticated industrial companies. But we need more.

Every politician should read the UK Industrial Group’s latest paper, Manufacture to Survive, and its proposal to create a National Industry Fund with money from the National Lottery.

David Turnbull, director-general, UK Industrial Group

In the short to medium term, a Labour government would not affect our business.

The NHS is likely to be an early beneficiary of a change in government, which would benefit our medical division.

The release of £5bn capital receipts from the sale of council homes would see an increase in capital spending by local authorities – public works makes up a large proportion of our business.

But a change of government is likely to see a defence review after five years which would take cost out of the equipment budget.

When the Americans take money out, they spend money on buying the best kit and save on soldiers.

We’d like to see launch aid for new projects to ensure the survival of our technology base. New projects take a huge amount of investment. Like-for-like investment would be ideal.

Roger Hurn, chairman, Smiths Industries

Engineering training is more expensive than for most other disciplines. EMTA would like to see the next government reflect this.

We are impressed by the initiative of the Welsh Office to promote manufacturing by pumping a higher level of funding into engineering training.

On average a Welsh engineering employer can expect to receive £11,200 to support the training of an engineering apprentice, compared with an average of £7,100 in the rest of the UK. The success of this policy is evident in the higher numbers of apprentices in training in Wales. The principality has also been very successful in attracting new manufacturing industry.

We would like to see the next government mirror the actions of the Welsh Office across the whole of the UK.

We are disappointed that the word `engineering’ does not appear in any of the manifestos of the three main parties.