Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Thursday, 24 November 2011

UK manufacturing debate

MPs have held a general debate on the future of UK manufacturing.

The topic was chosen by the Backbench Business Committee of MPs on the recommendation of Conservative Guy Opperman.

Opening the Commons debate, Mr Opperman said there should be a dedicated government minister for manufacturing to boost British industry.

He explained: "Such a minister would genuinely provide a co-ordinated response to concerns of the manufacturing businesses and would send out a statement that this really matters."

He added: "Manufacturing should be at the heart of any long-term plan for economic growth. It is a sleeping giant which, if revived, would become the backbone of a strong UK economy."

Liberal Democrat Gordon Birtwistle agreed with the idea, telling MPs it would be a "major asset" to the government and Britain's manufacturers.

They would be able to "go directly to a person who can give them answers, rather than going through a myriad of various departments", he argued, adding: "Everybody gets lost in that."

Mr Birtwistle said the country has become too dependant on the financial sector and service industries, calling for more to be done to change the image of manufacturing to make it more attractive to young people.

Labour's Adrian Bailey stressed the contribution of the creative and service industries to the economy. He added that manufacturing played "a crucially strategic role" for Britain.

Business Minister David Willetts said his ministerial colleague, Mark Prisk, had responsibility for manufacturing.

"Although he does not have manufacturing in his title, he is to all intents and purposes our minister for manufacturing," Mr Willetts said, adding: "He is the go-to minister for manufacturing."

Shadow business minister Iain Wright said the UK had "enormous scope" to be a leading player in engineering and manufacturing, but did not believe the government was doing enough to allow British manufacturing to "fulfil its potential".

UK manufacturing accounts for about 12% of GDP, which is about the same proportion as the US and France, but less than Germany's 20%.

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