This motion has been passed overwhelmingly by the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, 10th March 2013.
Conference welcomes the policy initiatives from Liberal Democrats in Government to support manufacturing and the positive contribution made by the ‘Liberal Democrat Campaign for Manufacturing’ group. In particular, conference welcomes:
a) The government funds made available through the Regional Growth Fund, which was set up to help build a more geographically sustainable economy; this has led to the creation and/or safeguarding of over 550,000 jobs, many in the manufacturing sector, and £14.5bn of private investment.
b) The establishment of the Green Investment Bank, funded by £3 billion of public money, enabling more investment, both public and private, into green projects.
c) The successful Liberal Democrat Campaign for Manufacturing proposal on capital allowances to help businesses invest in plant and machinery, which saw the annual investment allowance increased in the Autumn Statement from £25,000 to £250,000 for a two-year period.
d) Initiatives to boost exports (over half the UK’s exports is in manufacturing) including further investment in UKTI with a particular focus on small and medium exporters, as well as a scheme, announced in the Autumn Statement 2012, to provide up to £1.5bn of loans for the purchase of UK exports.
e) The Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative, with £125m available to improve the global competitiveness of UK advanced manufacturing supply chains, particularly across the automotive, aerospace and chemical sectors.
However, more needs to be done – to further develop the manufacturing sector, conference calls for:
1. A further round of funding through the Regional Growth Fund – this funding will encourage new investment in manufacturing, increase manufacturing capacity, and lead to further job creation and preservation, while ensuring a continued commitment to a geographically rebalanced economy.
2. Government, which is best placed to bring UK manufacturers together, to take the lead in key manufacturing clusters, as identified in the Industrial Strategy – it should facilitate collective R&D where there is a common industry agenda, and overcome the challenges in the UK supply chain in partnership with manufacturers. UK University research to be recognised as a key driver for innovation, both in existing manufacturing processes and in the development of future industries; government should continue to close the gap between university research and manufacturing uptake, further supporting initiatives such as the Research Councils’ Centres for Innovative Manufacturing and the TSB Catapult Centres.
3. Government to continue its commitment to apprenticeships, and, additionally, to promote science education in schools and science and engineering degrees at universities – these are essential for building the skills sets necessary to support a strong manufacturing sector.
4. Government to make the UK a centre of excellence for manufacturing renewables-related equipment, to set a long term energy policy which will unlock investment in renewables and make the UK a manufacturing hub for these products.
5. The expansion of the Green Investment Bank’s scale and remit as fast as possible, including relaxing the restriction on its ability to borrow before total public sector debt begins to fall, in order to support green manufacturing, generate jobs, increase tax revenues and lay the foundations for long-term prosperity.
6. Government to scrap the review in 2014 of the fourth carbon budget target imposed by the Chancellor, helping to end the current uncertainty over the government’s low-carbon policies and reinforce confidence amongst investors in low-carbon manufacturing, technology and infrastructure.