The government has published its Green Paper designed to boost industry and productivity, and to spread investment and prosperity more widely around the UK.
One of the main improvements I have been seeking is improved public procurement. The paper stresses the need for change in this area. The public sector buys all too many items from overseas, when acting as an intelligent customer and partner of UK business would allow it to buy good value goods and services here in the UK. The public sector would then benefit from the taxes levied on that business activity and on the incomes of the employees involved, and there would be a saving on the balance of payments.
The Defence department has ordered a large number of Ajax light tanks from Spain. Given the long term production runs needed the government could have worked with a UK company and design. It is importing steel for our new submarines on the grounds that our industry does not make the right specification. Surely it could have been worthwhile to discuss with our steel industry how they could invest in transforming their base steel into the required material? We are importing large quantities of building materials and components for the UK public housing programmes executed by Housing Associations and Councils. This again is work that could be done at home.
In our overseas aid programme large sums are sent to foreign institutions, charities and companies to spend for us. I want to see us concentrate our aid activities on specialist areas like disease eradication and the provision of clean water. If we did we could have sufficient purchasing power to allow companies to invest in producing the vaccines and water plants here in the UK instead of importing them from other rich countries. Overseas aid is best spent in the country you are helping. Where that is not possible it should be spent on things we are good at here.
The Green Paper also covers R and D, skills, infrastructure, start ups, exports, affordable energy, world leading sectors, spreading investment around the whole UK and creating institutions to assist. Tax cuts would also be a big help in generating enterprise and growth. Ensuring proper competition and preventing take over by large groups wanting to reduce competition will also be essential.