The government should make clearer its criteria for agreeing ‘sector deals’ for industrial support and ensure they are set up with the support of the entire sector, MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee have warned, and it should be ready to engage with organisations across sectors including unions.
In a new report, the committee also called for government to make sure that InnovateUK had sufficient funding and flexibility to support innovation and productivity growth in sectors beyond those receiving sector deals, and said sectors with deals should have ‘Catapult’ organisations to support them.
The committee praised existing deals including those for nuclear, offshore wind and construction, but said government “should now deliver on its promises to the industry and ensure its commitments … are fully funded”. The Offshore Wind Sector Deal was praised for promoting growth outside London and the southeast and for its focus on a diverse workforce and training programme.
The committee said slow progress in achieving deals and the lack of clarity over them, “is in the interests of neither business nor government.” Industries investing in asking for a deal should have a roadmap from government so they know what to expect and when. “The government risks losing trust from sectors seeking a deal if it is not transparent about the criteria by which it is assessing proposals for a sector deal.”
It said it was an “unrealistic expectation” for the government to deal with a single organisation. The government should expand its negotiations to trade bodies, trade unions and small businesses.“The government’s current approach risks shutting out well-organised and coherent sectors from the sector deals process, because of its unnecessary focus on a single named negotiator,” it said.
It added, “If sector councils are, as it appears to date, to be an integral part of all sector deals, the government should make this clear in its criteria for a deal, and provide greater transparency on the establishment, membership and operation of such councils. We recommend that the government lay before Parliament a statement setting out the establishment of any sector councils, and clearly publicise any vacancies or changes to membership. “