Industry calls for early Euro decision

The next government must remove uncertainty over UK membership of the Euro, says a joint election ‘manifesto’ from manufacturing industry.

Other priorities should be fiscal policies to encourage investment, additional funding for training and a bigger role for the Regional Development Agencies.

‘UK Manufacturing — the Future’, launched at the House of Commons on Monday, was endorsed by Labour MP and chairman of the trade and industry select committee Martin O’Neill, who said the government should act soon to help manufacturing.

‘The government’s preoccupation in the first four years was getting macroeconomic conditions right. Our concern as backbenchers is that if we don’t move quickly we could lose the means whereby manufacturing, the engine that drives the economy, can be protected.’

The manifesto jointly published by the EEF, the Machine Tool Technologies Association, the Society of British Aerospace Companies and the UK Steel Association lists the top 10 policies industry wants implemented during the next Parliament to close the productivity gap with competitors.

On the euro it admits: ‘Surveys suggest business remains divided on whether the UK should join the single currency. However, should the uncertainty surrounding our future membership continue, it will preclude vital investment decisions by UK and overseas companies. Whichever party is in power must encourage an open and transparent debate on this issue so that this uncertainty may be removed as soon as possible in the next Parliament.’

At the launch, EEF president and Balfour Beatty group managing director Paul Lester said: ‘The document is described as key priorities for the next government but I hope it covers the next three or four governments because it’s a medium to long-term plan.’

Industry is responsible for investing in new technology and skills but it needs help, he added. Manufacturing’s wants list includes a stable economy, influence in Europe, closure of the skill gap, flexible labour, promotion of the regions, and measures to encourage investment.

Martin O’Neill said: ‘There is coming together a consensus across the industrial spectrum and, I think, among those of us in Parliament who are close to manufacturing industry.’