Posts Tagged ‘BIS’

Toil and trouble bubbling in the shadow cabinet pot

07/01/2014, 02:11:07 PM

In the past week, lefty pointy-heads have been all a-twitter about a piece on the Economist’s blog, mapping out how Ed Miliband might want to clip the Treasury’s wings and expand BIS, so that BIS becomes an engine for “economic reform”.

This new “department for Milibandism” would take on responsibility for jobcentres from DWP, training from Education, cities and regional growth from CLG and financial services from the Treasury. The poor old Treasury would be left as a much diminished office of the budget.

Cue supportive interventions from noted Ed-ites and much sage discussion about the policy and institutional impact. But as the wonkathon subsides, thoughts turn to the politics of such a change and the eternal question, cui bono?

The stony silence from the shadow chancellor’s camp speaks volumes. Ed Balls would effectively be demoted to the role of chief secretary to the Treasury. Suffice to say, he’s unlikely to be a fan. No, the lucky beneficiary from this radical Whitehall surgery would appear be Chuka, the current shadow at BIS.

So who lobbed this political incendiary into the debate? Step forward the uncredited author of the piece, Jeremy Cliffe.

Would that be the same Jeremy Cliffe who is good mates with one, er, Chuka Umunna? The same Jeremy whose Linked-In CV lists a past role as “Campaign Intern, Streatham Labour, December 2009-January 2010.” The same Jeremy whose CV goes on to list one of his jobs as “Researcher, Office of Chuka Umunna, June 2010-August 2010”?

Hmm. Stop it. You’re too suspicious, Uncut is sure this is all just a big coincidence.

In other coincidental news, la Umunna penned a piece for last week’s Observer on democratic renewal; nothing to do with industrial strategy and completely out of the blue, but nevertheless a worthy subject for a political intervention. It brought to mind a comment from a grizzled whip a few years ago, speaking about loyalty from the then cabinet, “When the children start talking off-topic, discipline is breaking down and trouble’s not far behind.”

In fairness to Chuka, at least he was scrupulously on message in his Observer piece. Rumours from the PLP abound that the really big fight of the coming term is about to kick-off: Balls versus Burnham with loyalty to the collective shadow cabinet line likely to be the first casualty.


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Promoting gesture candidates should be none of Labour’s business

17/07/2012, 02:19:52 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It seems gesture politics is alive and well, although the latest outbreak has popped up in an unexpected place.

We learn today that the Labour party wants more candidates for elected office to come from a business background. It wants to extend the future candidates programme and get sitting MPs to mentor potential applicants from business. They won’t even need to be party members, just sympathetic to Labour’s ‘values’.

Of course the days when Labour candidates overwhelmingly came from trade unions, local government, universities or public sector management are disappearing. The last decade has shown that people who support Labour now work everywhere.

We should embrace that plurality. It is a success for Labour’s ambition to be a true ‘one nation’ party. And ‘business’ covers everything from executives of blue chip companies through to one-man band start-ups.

All oppositions have to reach out to build goodwill and support and it is right to do so. And Labour’s business reception in the City tonight is a good and useful thing to do.

But the announcement about candidates feels like a piece of crude brand positioning – an attempt to counter the charge that Labour is somehow anti-business. If that’s the real motive then there are better ways of going about responding to it.

If we need a concrete message for tonight’s business reception, how about promising that missives from HM Revenue and Customs will be written in plain English? That would be greeted with hosannas from every small business in the land. Or perhaps reverse the closure of HMRC front counter offices? Or how about a dedicated account manager for each small business?

Meet, talk and discuss with business by all means, but offering special access into the party’s selection processes is as abasing as it is pointless. Abasing because it sends the signal ‘we don’t – cannot – understand business without you’ and pointless because the take-up will be so low.

Do we really think there will be a rush from the executive corridors of Britain to spend evenings in residents’ association meetings or to take pay cuts to serve as MPs?


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Revealed: How BIS abandoned British shipbuilding

14/03/2012, 07:00:21 AM

by Iain Wright

A couple of weeks ago, the MoD announced that a £0.5bn contract for the next generation of Royal Navy tankers had been awarded to a South Korean company.

Ministers thought that they had got away with this because there had been no bids from a British firm.

Peter Luff, the defence procurement minister, was quoted as saying that: “There was no British bid.  That does make it a tad difficult to award (the contract) to a British company if there is not a bid from a British company.  We don’t build tankers in the UK.”

Excuse me?  We don’t build tankers in the UK? I think the minister should try telling that to the Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association (SSA), whose membership comprises about 99 per cent of the UK ship production and supply chain, and whose director still insists that this contract could be built in the UK within the timeframe and to the quality required and awarded to a UK shipyard to help maintain jobs.

The government is hiding behind the excuse that no British firms applied. But this is sophistry.

There was a European bid on the table that offered a greater share of work for the UK than the South Korean winners. This would have meant 35 per cent of the contract being delivered in Britain.

But the MoD ignored the wider British economic interest.

This  sorry episode raises two serious questions: – why wasn’t the broader economic context taken into account, and could the government have done more with British suppliers to help them bid?

In both cases, it is down to the departmental champion of business across government, the department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to make the Britain’s economic case to other departments and support British companies in engaging with government.

So I asked a parliamentary question as to what meetings the business secretary Vince Cable and his ministers had with MoD ministers and civil servants, UK businesses and trade associations to prioritise the British economic interest in such an important contract.

I got the answer back last week.  No meetings had been held between BIS ministers and anybody on this matter.

I find this astonishing.


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Together we can make the government act over legal loan sharking

16/12/2010, 12:00:42 PM

by Stella Creasy

Campaigns thrive on names and numbers – the more of either, the greater the chance of interest and engagement. History may lionise the lone crusader, but it is only through convincing others to join in that causes actually succeed. If we are to win the arguments for progressive policies, Labour must be capable not only of speaking up for our ideals but building a critical mass of active champions for our actions in every community.

Yet in the competition for the airtime of advocates that now defines modern politics, slick single-issue groups often surpass complicated political messaging. We know many people share our progressive instincts – and that many also baulk at the confusion of institutions we have set up to express them. Even the hardiest Labour enthusiast struggles to set out with conviction the vital differences between the GC, EC, branch and LGC meetings. So to, when supporters make the effort to attend such forums we can let detail on policy close down rather than open up debate. Too often we start by proposing motions for others to be for or against rather than with open enquiry and deliberation to see if we can find mutual terms for collective action.

If we are confident in our passion for social justice, we should embrace and enjoy the process of seeking shared ambitions as well as recognising the value of compromise along the way. This principle is not just about being inclusive; it’s also about being effective. Common cause is the foundation block for asking people to help and ultimately common endeavour. That’s why in the fight to end legal loan sharking, as much effort has been made not just to have the right arguments about legislation, but also to reach out to any and all those who share our concerns. (more…)

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The Coalition government has no coherent strategy for growth, argues Rachel Reeves

21/07/2010, 04:36:26 PM

Wednesday morning saw the first evidence session under the new membership of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee.  As a Committee, we chose to use this opportunity to put Vince Cable (as Secretary of State for the Department), and David Willetts (as his Minister of State for Universities and Science) through their paces, and put their recent announcements and departmental plans for the future in the spotlight.

This was the chance for Vince Cable to set out how the government was going to rebalance the economy.  It was his big opportunity to spell out their desperately-needed strategy for growth, and his vision for how we would rebuild an economy that was sectorally and regionally diverse, with strong, sustainable growth.  I looked forward to hearing about the evidence behind the decisions and announcements that had already been made, and his rationale and thinking for future plans.

With these expectations, what we actually heard from the Secretary of State and his Minister was a disappointment.  This disappointment started before the meeting had even begun, when we received copies of the Department’s Strategy for Growth, contained in what Vince himself said ‘could not be described as more than a pamphlet’.  His opening rhetoric may have sounded good, but his assertion that a new economy should be rebalanced rings somewhat hollow when, as I pointed out to him, the only mention of a regional strategy to rebalance the economy comes on page 14 of a 16 page document.


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Barry Gardiner’s elephant

09/06/2010, 02:21:42 PM

Since they got (back) to Westminster, Labour MPs have been assaulted by a relentless barrage of vote-begging letters from their Parliamentary colleagues. There are or have been elections for the leadership, the deputy speakerships, all party groups, backbench committees and a host of select committee chairs. There are shadow cabinet and select committee membership elections to come.

Everybody is sick of it.  Most of the letters are dull and unremarkable.  There has generally been no reason to inflict them on Uncut readers.

There are two that stick out, though.


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Don’t cut growth: Andy Westwood says that Labour got it right

08/06/2010, 04:43:31 PM

‘We’ve got to get the economy moving’ urged David Cameron ad nauseam during the election campaign. But beyond his condemnation of the ‘jobs tax’ and his desire to shrink the size and the role of the state, the detail was nowhere to be seen. He claimed then that what government spent or did was not the same thing as the economy – visibly incredulous as Gordon Brown warned about endangering the recovery by cutting expenditure too quickly.

A few weeks into the coalition government and the headlines are still about cuts, because in Cameron’s words ‘growth won’t be enough’. That may be because he has yet to give it any serious thought, or it may be because they just prefer to talk about the deficit. But there’s a third possibility: it may be because the Tories and Lib Dems don’t want to admit that they have retained Labour’s new industrial policy.

Key to this was the formation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and ‘NINJA’ – the ‘New Industries, New Jobs’ white paper jointly written and conceived by Lord Mandelson and John Denham. Which document was published in Budget week exactly two years ago, providing a narrative for a more optimistic economic future amidst the fast developing recession in 2008.


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