The launch of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper is a big moment for the Government. The Conservative Party has always been reticent to embrace government intervention in the economy. Not anymore, it appears. Theresa May signalled her intention to take a different path on the economy to David Cameron when she first became Prime Minister last summer. The creation of a new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department and appointment of light blue Greg Clark as its Secretary of State underscored the potential change of policy. The Green Paper reinforces that approach.
Whilst this is only a Green Paper subject to public consultation, it has been widely welcomed by the leading business groups. It is ambitious in scope, heralding a significant increase in research and development investment by £4.7 billion and proposing an overhaul of technical education. It proposes a new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to help capitalise on UK strengths in science and innovation, including on robotics, clean energy and biotechnology.
The Green Paper also managed to heal old wounds with George Osborne giving a strong endorsement for his Northern Powerhouse agenda; indeed, the Cabinet even trouped up to the North West to launch the Green Paper. The focus on broadening growth across the country and additional funding for Local Enterprise Partnerships is a further boost for devolution.
It has not been all plain sailing. The Sunday Times press leak of a failed Trident missile test risked overshadowing much of the news today. Labour warned that good intentions about intervention would ring hollow if the UK took a hard Brexit and tried to reposition itself as a tax haven. Whilst there were many welcoming words from business, the proof – as ever – remains in the delivery, and how government can translate intention into reality.