New industrial strategy to tackle productivity

A new industrial strategy is to be revealed by the Government later, aiming to tackle Britain’s “weakness” of productivity.

Business Secretary Greg Clarke said workforce efficiency was “well below what can be achieved” and pledged to address the crisis threatening to “stop us achieving our potential”.

Britain ranks fifth out of G7 industrial nations, behind Canada and Japan, on productivity.

Mr Clarke said the country should “seize” the benefits of a “new industrial revolution”.

He added: “This would be needed at any time, and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union makes it even more important.”

Business Secretary Greg Clarke talks to Sky News

Image: Greg Clarke pledged to tackle Britain’s productiviy ‘weakness’

The announcement includes news of a major pharmaceutical company opening a “world-leading” life-sciences campus in northwest England.

It will support 900 jobs, with the potential for 800 more to be created at the firm’s current headquarters in Manchester.

MSD, known internationally as Merck and Co., will use the new hub for research into treatments and medicines.

The Government hopes to use the news to allay concerns about the pharmaceutical industry’s future post-Brexit.

Numerous bodies voiced concern when the new homes of two London-based EU authorities, including the European Medical Agency, were announced.

Their departure means the loss of over 1,000 jobs, and tens of thousands of researchers and staff from companies visiting the institutions going elsewhere.

The European Medicines Agency has been in London since 1995

Image: The EMA’s new host city was announced last week

Merck has also previously attracted criticism for paying an academic publisher to print favourable articles about it, without indicating the content was sponsored.

The publisher later admitted the practice was “unacceptable” and that the journal – sent to tens of thousands of Australian doctors – lacked “the proper disclosures”.

Merck argued that the articles had been reprinted from peer-reviewed journals.

In 2004, it was also engulfed in a scandal about a painkiller – Vioxx – linked to heart attacks.

It paid $4.85bn (£3.6bn) to settle a majority of lawsuits brought against it, but avoided the up-to $30bn payout some analysts predicted.

FILES - Picture taken on February 17, 2012 shows a man walking past the logo of German chemicals and pharmaceutical group Merck KGaA at the company's plant in Darmstadt, western Germany. Merck KGaA said on September 4, 2012 it will cut 1,100 jobs in Germany from a total domestic workforce of 10,900 by the end of 2015. AFP PHOTO / ARNE DEDERT GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read ARNE DEDERT/AFP/GettyImages)

Image: Merck has faced criticism in the past

Dr Roger Perlmutter, MSD’s research laboratories president, said of the new investment announcement: “Strong discovery capabilities and the pursuit of scientific excellence are foundational to MSD’s mission to save and improve lives around the world.

“A new UK location will enable us to build on our proud legacy of invention and be an important contributor to the vibrant and rapidly growing UK life sciences community, while providing access for more collaborations within the European life science ecosystem.”

Meanwhile, analysis by Labour has found that the UK economy only will be 1.4% more productive in 2017 compared to 2007, the pre-crisis peak, putting UK productivity growth at its slowest rate since electricity was invented.

Commenting on the figures, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: “The Conservatives’ failed economic agenda has stifled productivity and held Britain back.

“The shocking state of the economy is down to austerity, and a chronic lack of investment over the last seven years.

“The Conservatives have done untold damage to our economy and its capacity to lift productivity and living standards. The next Labour government will invest in the skills and infrastructure our country so badly needs.”