The head of manufacturing at Crowe UK, one of the country’s leading national audit, tax, advisory and risk firms, reiterates his call for the Government to appoint a Minister for Manufacturing to help drive the transformation of the UK economy to acheive it’s Net Zero ambitions by 2050.
Crowe Partner Johnathan Dudley said: “If the UK Government is serious about tackling the challenges of decarbonising its economy, then it must place the country’s world class manufacturing at the cornerstone of its Net Zero ambitions by appointing a dedicated Minister for the industry.
“Determining a long-term strategy, a Minister for Manufacturing could light the fuse of a new industrial revolution in the UK by aligning innovation, economic development and education to support nearly a million green jobs to help get this country making, building and adding value again.
“My call over the last 12 months to appoint a dedicated Minister also requires political and social will, especially given the significant economic challenges the industry is facing. Without the required direction to mobilise and deliver the necessary investment to take advantage of what we have on our doorstep could see the UK left behind in securing its low carbon future.”
Crowe UK has offices across the country, including in Cheltenham, Kent, London, Manchester, the Midlands and Reading.
Manufacturing currently comes under the remit of the Minister for Industry, a role covering numerous sectors such has retail, hospitality, professional and business services, consumer goods and many other industries. Calls for a dedicated minister is supported by over 70% of UK manufacturing businesses in the sector and the industry trade body, Make UK.
The remit of the proposed new post should include a major say over the UK’s energy and transport policy – key sectors for cutting carbon emissions – by adopting a pragmatic approach which does not risk backing the wrong horse.
He says: “Yes, we need more electricity production to drive electric motors, but we also need to build the right infrastructure to secure the UK’s energy future. A dedicated Minister could kick-start domestic production of renewable energy by also supporting changes to planning laws which could encourage, for example, more solar farms on industrial and commercial roofs and public car parks to quadruple energy capacity.”
A Minster could also advocate unlocking new onshore wind development, which faces a continued de-facto ban and is holding back a potential 35GW for being supplied to the grid by 2035 as well as new green jobs.
A new renaissance in UK manufacturing is also important for the construction of hydrogen infrastructure, nuclear power stations and adoption of biofuels to help support the country’s future energy needs to minimise the undue influence of global events, i.e from the conflict in Ukraine.
Appointing a dedicated Minister should include having the remit of promoting the policy of reshoring or “friend shoring”. By sourcing from countries that are geopolitical allies, it would safeguard strategic supplies of materials and components required by the manufacturing industry to support the green economy over the next century.
A report published by the British Geological Survey and the Department for Business and Trade in 2023 said the UK has untapped potential beneath its soil, identifying a number key raw materials on its critical raw minerals list which are almost exclusively obtained from mining and refining operations in other countries. Exploiting these key reserves could support the green transition and help transform supply chains in the UK and across Europe.
Mr Dudley said: “Sourcing products from the other side of the world is not ‘green’ nor sustainable in the longer term. Therefore, a dedicated Minister could drive the exploration of the untapped potential underneath our feet to supply nickel, copper, lithium, cobalt and even tin, essential for components such as batteries, semiconductors, steel, strategic metals and non-ferrous metals.
“If these resources prove viable, reshoring manufacturing will help create both market opportunities and jobs for future generations by having more control of supply chains, especially costs and timings for just-in-time manufacturing, and even prevent wasteful over buying and subsequent over production.”
Key to delivering a Net Zero economy is the inclusion of education within the proposed Minister’s portfolio as climate change has seen the rapid rise and relevance of STEM subjects and other important skills for UK workers.
Mr Dudley said: “Giving people the right skills is key for the UK to achieve its strategy of decarbonising the entire economy by 2050. Tackling climate change has brought science, technology, engineering and maths subjects to the fore amongst younger people as applications to study STEM subjects have increased dramatically over recent years.
“A Minister for Manufacturing could also support an education system which has broad appeal to help prepare the current workforce with new skills to succeed in the green economy. Giving people the opportunity to gain practical skills for construction building and civil engineering, plumbing, roofing, bricklaying and electrics to help build, develop and add value to ensure long-term national competitiveness.”