Labour seeks views on digital in industrial strategy consultation

Written by Rebecca Hill on 5 January 2017 in News

The Labour party has launched a consultation on its plans for a “people-centric” industrial strategy that it said would support workers in an era of rapid technological change.

Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for industrial strategy, launched the consultation with the shadow business secretary - Photo credit: PA

The six-week consultation, launched today by shadow business secretary Clive Lewis and shadow minister for industrial strategy Chi Onwurah, will feed into Labour’s industrial strategy plans, as the government’s own white paper is due out this year.

Labour’s consultation is based around a set of principles that the party argued would be essential for any industrial strategy.

Among these are the need to build on the UK’s strengths in the digital industries, as well as in advanced manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, biotechnology and the creative industries.

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Labour stressed that the strategy “must take the whole country with it” – which means having a focus on areas outside not just London and the south-east but also the cities of the rest of the country. “The idea that only cities can be the engines of growth has weighed too heavily on all of us in recent times,” Labour said.

In addition, the party said that it wanted to create a “people-centred” strategy that would equip workers for “an era in which technological change is ever more rapid”.

This, it said, means life-long support and retraining for people whose jobs are threatened, for instance by automation – a recent Deloitte report suggested that 850,000 jobs could be lost to automation by 2030.

Labour added that it wanted its strategy to focus on increasing innovation in the UK, arguing that the UK’s competitiveness would only be increased “by creating a high-skill, value-producing economy rather than a low-skill, exploitative one” that relied on outsourcing from overseas.

In a blogpost on LabourList, Onwurah added that the strategy must include “specific, measurable and time-limited missions”, arguing that without concrete targets, industrial strategy “can become a bucket for every policy hole and a vague answer to every pressing problem”.

Labour said that it wanted the review to be “wide reaching”, asking for responses from industry, charities and universities, and set out seven priority areas in which it would like to gather views, which includes job creation, the implications of Brexit and regional balance.

In addition, there is a section on the digital economy, which includes questions on how the UK can make the most of technology, how to avoid unemployment from automation and what social objectives about digital should be included in the strategy.

Other questions include where improvements are needed in R&D, how to improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships and what environmental goals should be factored into the strategy.

The party said it also wanted views on government interventions, such as which tax incentives could be used to boost R&D, access to finance, procurement and public investment and infrastructure.

The consultation closes for responses on 16 February. 

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