Report on industrial strategy calls for a beefed-up BEIS with ‘business’ and ‘energy’ scrapped from name
Policy Institute warns that current Whitehall structures "lack of strategic thinking and leadership" to implement the industrial strategy
KCL's Policy Institute set out its vision for the industrial strategy in a new report. Credit: Matt Crossick/Empics Entertainment
A new report has called for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to drop “business” and “energy” from its title and be allowed to operate “with authority across government departments” to deliver the industrial strategy.
The Policy Institute at King’s College London argued that business and energy are functions of any industrial strategy, and giving the department greater focus would reduce Whitehall’s “silo mindset”.
Following the publication of government’s long-anticipated industrial strategy this week, the report authors said it “runs against the grain of traditional policymaking” and will only work if its implementation is inter-departmental and cross-party.
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The report – by former Conservative MP Chris White, who served as a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, and Dr Benedict Wilkinson, senior research fellow at the Policy Institute – praised government for creating BEIS in July 2016, as well as its understanding of the need for a meaningful strategy.
“In creating the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the prime minister overtly recognised the challenge and importance of an industrial strategy amid the political volatility produced by Brexit and wider economic uncertainty,” it said.
But it highlighted the “lack of strategic thinking and strategic leadership” in government, and added that an effective industrial strategy required a refocusing of BEIS as the Department for Industrial Strategy, with a minister responsible and accountable for delivery of the strategy.
This minister would work across departments and update parliament on a regular basis, similar to the Budget.
The new department would operate “with authority across government departments”, which would effectively diminish the role of Treasury. It has long been considered by many as too commanding, and there was speculation on Theresa May’s election this year that she would break up the ministry.
Without directly calling for a smaller Treasury, the Policy Institute said May’s aspiration to create “an economy that works for everyone” required an industrial strategy that could influence the Treasury and other departments.
“To create such an economy, we need an industrial strategy that influences treasury, education, local government, energy, business and trade policy, providing a coherent strategic narrative,” it said.
The Policy Institute also called for the creation of an independent Office for Industrial Strategy, responsible for scrutiny, monitoring and measurement of the strategy.
During the consultation process for the strategy, government was repeatedly told by businesses that they found it difficult to “navigate different approaches by different government departments”. The strategy itself called on officials to do more to facilitate partnerships with businesses.
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