Ed Miliband says government 'betrayed Yorkshire' with 'allergy to industrial strategy'

A Yorkshire Labour MP has accused the Government of betraying the region by "turning its back on industrial strategy" after disbanding a council of experts devoted to the topic.

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband criticised Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s “allergy to industrial policy” following his decision to axe the Industrial Strategy Council and abandon an industrial strategy paper.

The Industrial Strategy Council, which was launched in November 2018 is chaired by Andy Haldane, the Yorkshire-born Bank of England chief economist.

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Labour's shadow business secretary Ed Miliband appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. Pic: PA/BBC

Sky News reported that in a letter to the council's members Tory Minister Mr Kwarteng said this week's publication of the government's new "plan for growth" had prompted to disband the council from next month.

"As I'm sure you can appreciate, the United Kingdom is in a completely different economic situation now than it was in 2017," his letter said.

"We have left the European Union with an ambitious free trade agreement and legislated to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050, and we are working to recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is therefore right that we look again at our long-term plan to drive jobs and economic growth across the UK, drawing on the valuable lessons we have learnt from the 2017 Industrial Strategy."

But Mr Miliband, a Doncaster MP, says the decision is "symptomatic of the Conservatives’ aversion to industrial strategy".

It comes as worries have been raised over the future of thousands of steel workers after a lender for Liberty Steel, which has a number of bases in Yorkshire, filed for administration.

Labour says the Government forgot to mention the steel industry in a 112 page ‘plan for growth’ released as part of the Budget and that only one company received any funding from ‘Project Birch’, a scheme to support businesses in strategic sectors.

Mr Miliband adds that the trade deal with the EU has left the fishing industry in turmoil, despite the Government providing £23m for seafood exporters that suffered a financial loss because of delays in January.

And he said the Government’s new National Infrastructure Bank, to be based in Leeds, will not solve the problems facing industry as it will provide less than half the investment lost from the European Investment Bank.

Mr Miliband told The Yorkshire Post: "The Government turning their back on industrial strategy is a betrayal of Yorkshire and will leave huge reserves of potential untapped.

"With strategic investment, secure jobs would be created in Yorkshire in the clean industries of the future including carbon capture and storage, aerospace, and green energy like offshore wind.

"But we need to see a real strategy to make that happen, with investment targeted to build on Yorkshire's strengths."

Government officials have defended their approach, pointing to the fact that the Business Secretary last week re-formed and co-chaired the UK Steel Council, bringing together ministers, six major steel companies, UK Steel - the sector’s trade association - trade unions and the devolved administrations.

And it says the Government has taken wide-ranging action to support the steel industry and help it decarbonise.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “In the four years since the Industrial Strategy was published, the UK’s business and economic environment has changed – we’ve legislated to end our contribution to climate change by 2050, we’re forging a new path outside the European Union and we continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It's right that our approach changes too. That’s why our new Plan for Growth sets out the opportunities we’ll seize across the UK to drive economic growth, create jobs and support British industry as we level-up and build back better out of this pandemic."