TUC chief: UK economy needs more engineering

The UK economy could not be sustained by 60 million people selling each other insurance and mobile ring tones, a union leader has warned.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said manufacturing should become the centrepiece of a new economy. He told the national conference of Unite in Manchester yesterday: "From surging inequality to stagnant wages, from spiralling debt to massive regional disparities, the consequences of letting the City rip are clear for all to see.

"So it surely follows that what we need now is less financial engineering and more real engineering. For far too long, manufacturing has played second fiddle to services and it's high time the pendulum swung the other way.

"We can't sustain an economy of 60 million people by selling each other insurance, mortgage-backed securities and mobile ring tones.

"It's only by making things and selling them to the rest of the world that we will be able to build Britain's future prosperity. Whether it's high-speed trains or electric vehicles, whether it's wind turbines or more efficient aero engines, we have the skills, the experience and the expertise to build them here."

Mr Barber said Britain's manufacturing industries could drive the dynamic low-carbon economy of the future, but only with the political will to make it happen.

"I call on the new Government not to abandon the industrial strategy established by its predecessor, but to build on it," he said.

Mr Barber added that unions will resist "swingeing" public sector cuts, saying: "It is just plain wrong that our schools, hospitals and local councils should pay the price for a crisis inspired by free-market dogma, created in the City of London, and caused by the richest minority of the richest minority."

Alistair Tebbit of the Institute of Directors said: "When the TUC calls for an industrial strategy what it really wants is for the Government to pick winners. Time after time this approach has been shown to fail.

"If we want a vibrant private sector that creates new jobs, ministers should be looking to reduce tax and regulatory burdens. This is more likely to produce sustainable businesses than any industrial strategy devised in Whitehall.

"Entrepreneurs don't want their businesses to be propped up with state handouts and soft loans, they want more freedom so that they can operate and grow."

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