George Osborne has said the UK must recapture the “pioneering spirit” of the industrial revolution if it is to secure firm long-term growth out of the fledgling recovery.
The Chancellor said it was crucial the mistakes of the recent past - with over-reliance on particular sectors and areas of the UK - were not repeated but there were lessons to be taken from the country’s history.
He was touring digger builder JCB’s factory in Staffordshire off the back of the company’s £150m investment announcement to expand and create new jobs.
The firm wants to expand its UK operations, including the construction of two huge new plants, which will bring 2,500 new jobs to the Midlands by 2018.
Mr Osborne welcomed the firm’s commitment, adding the creation of manufacturing jobs and growth across the country, not just in London, were key to the plan for a “responsible recovery” set out yesterday in his Autumn Statement.
He said manufacturing had halved as a share of the UK economy under the last government and it was crucial that Britain had “one of the most competitive tax systems in the world” to attract jobs and investment back into the country.
Under JCB’s plans, jobs will be returning from France and Belgium, with Mr Osborne pointing to that example as proof the Government’s strategy was working, together with recent announcements of new investment from China.
However, the Midlands region is also grappling with the news of nearly 1,000 job losses from energy firm npower with the Chancellor promising help for those employees at risk of redundancy.
He added the Government was also committed to investment in young people and apprenticeships to tackle youth unemployment, and on taking the “difficult decisions” building big new infrastructure projects like new roads, and the High Speed 2 north-south rail link (HS2).
“Hundreds of years ago our country was prepared to invest in railways and other big projects - our country needs that pioneering spirit again,” he said.
Speaking after a tour of the firm’s 175 acre site in Rocester in Staffordshire, he said: “It’s great news (to see) 2,500 manufacturing and engineering jobs here at JCB - that’s because the Government has been able to invest in infrastructure in this area and it’s an example of how the economic plan is working.
Of course the job isn’t done, but we’ve got to work through that plan to make sure we have a responsible recovery for all.”
He added: “What you’re seeing is jobs being created across the country, including jobs in manufacturing like here in the Midlands.’’