State: your business

Barker: “Politicians are perfectly entitled to do things to political ends but you’ve got to have somebody who encourages them to stop and think before they do.”

The government has unveiled ambitions to up the state’s role in guiding industrial development. The Mint talks to Dame Kate Barker, chair of a commission that has charted a way forward for the administration that includes creating a new industrial strategy watchdog.

Prime minister Theresa May unveiled her industrial strategy green paper early in 2017 with a list of ambitions relating to improvements to the country’s research and development, skills, infrastructure, funding and growth outside London and the South East.

May pledged that the strategy would be “not just stepping back and leaving business to get on with the job, but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.” She committed also to addressing the country’s weaknesses, singling out productivity in her foreword.

While the strategy has “growing support” there is currently “neither consensus nor clarity about what industrial strategy should entail or seek to achieve, according to an independent commission report in November. The report, The Final Report of the Industrial Strategy Commission, has high ambitions. The commission has said it aims to “redress the situation” and it would “seek to shape the design of a strategy and steer it towards a policy framework that can ensure future success.”

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