Kwarteng scraps Industrial Strategy Council and hints at BEIS rebrand

Business secretary tells members move will "mark a departure from the industrial strategy brand"
Photo: Cliff Hide General News / Alamy Stock Photo

Kwasi Kwarteng has scrapped the Industrial Strategy Council and hinted that he could rename the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in a bid to more away from the brand championed by former prime minister Theresa May.

Kwarteng wrote to the 16 members of the council this week saying it would be disbanded next month as the government adopted a new strategy to boost economic growth.

Build back better: our plan for growth, published this week, promises to support growth through "significant investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation, and to pursue growth that levels up every part of the UK, enables the transition to net zero, and supports our vision for global Britain".

With the new plan, Kwarteng said the government had "decided to mark a departure from the industrial strategy brand" – implying BEIS could be in for a name change in the coming months.

The strategy was May’s flagship policy for economic growth, bringing together government and private-sector funding for R&D, infrastructure and businesses.

"We have left the European Union with an ambitious free-trade agreement and legislated to reach net-aero emissions by 2050, and we are working to recover from the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Kwarteng wrote.

"It is therefore right that we look again at our long-term plan to drive jobs and economic growth across the UK, drawing on the valuable lessons we have learnt from the 2017 industrial strategy.”

Kicking off with a white paper in 2017, the industrial strategy aimed to address “grand challenges” in society such as ageing and the future of mobility, and led to several spin-off “deals” for sectors including the life sciences, nuclear power and construction.

The web page for the industrial strategy on GOV.UK was archived at the end of last year, cached data shows.

The ISC was set up in November 2018 to monitor and evaluate the government’s progress on delivering its aims of and impact on the economy. 

It is chaired by Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane. The pencil also includes Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor at the University of Manchester and co-chair of the prime minister’s Council for Science and Technology; Emma Bridgewater, a designer; Rupert Harrison, former chief of staff then-chancellor George Osborne and chair of the UK’s Council of Economic Advisors; and Vivian Hunt, managing partner for McKinsey in the UK and Ireland.

Kwarteng told council members he wanted to reassure them "that the government is, and will continue to be, a champion of the needs of business and industry as we build back better from the pandemic".

He asked the council to produce its annual report before being disbanded.

A BEIS spokesperson said: "The government is, and will continue to be, a champion of the needs of business and industry as we build back better from the pandemic.

"We will be laying out our plans to drive growth, support jobs and level up across the UK in the Budget and in the coming months."

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