I am very pleased to be invited to speak at the Confederation of Paper Industries event this Thursday on the topic of current issues affecting manufacturing. This is an issue of great interest to me. And I like to think I know something about paper having started and ran my own packaging company in my home town and the constituency I represent today.
The timing of this event could not be better: - we need to get our country growing again and the manufacturing industry plays an integral part in helping to achieve just that, contributing £140 billion per year to our economy. And of course manufacturers of paper are a key part of this contribution too. The UK’s pulp and paper manufacturers industry has a turnover of £5bn and employs 25,000 people directly, with 75,000 employed in upstream and downstream activities. It is a lifeblood of the UK economy and indeed it’s important to my constituents in Rugby too. At the heart of the nation, at the intersection of two main motorways, and enjoying the benefits of having a skilled workforce, we are a fantastic place for manufacturing companies to locate.
The organisations that will be present at this event can help facilitate long term growth. Manufacturing helps form the basis of a balanced economy – where exports and investment drive growth, not debt and unsustainable government spending. It is a real shame that manufacturing nearly halved as a share of the economy under the previous Government. In 1997, manufacturing made up 20% of UK economic output. In 2009, this had fallen to just 11%. And firms involved in the industry have fallen by a quarter: in 1997 there were 169,663 manufacturing enterprises operating in the UK. In 2009 there were 127,993. And the bad news goes on, in the same period, 40% of manufacturing jobs were lost and Britain dropped from seventh to thirteenth in the international competitiveness league.
It is with this in mind that I will be addressing the Confederation of Paper Industries and speak of some of the measures that this Conservative-led Government is pushing through to support British manufacturing. Whether it is the ‘Make it in Great Britain’ campaign, the ‘See Inside Manufacturing’ campaign or the cut in the main rate of corporation tax, this Government is proving its commitment to the industry.
The Government has made widely known its determination that all Whitehall departments focus on one overarching aim in the coming months and years, namely the economy. Manufacturing industry will play an important part in this emphasis on growth: it needs to have confidence; it needs to be open for business and it needs to export its products if it is to achieve substantial growth. It is my belief that the Government’s initiatives will help facilitate these important measurers and are very welcome indeed.