Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 1st August 2018

There has been lots of discussion this week about Labour’s ‘Build it in Britain’ policy. The basic idea being that when large amounts of taxpayer money are being spent on infrastructure or goods, the Government should try to spend the money in a way which promotes British industry.

The amounts of money we are talking about are huge. The Government spends around £200bn every year on private sector contracts, were that money invested back into the British economy the potential benefits in terms of jobs and incomes is significant. Right now the Ministry of Defence is deciding whether or not to award a £285m contract for constructing Royal Navy support ships to a firm based in Japan, a decision which would have a massively negative impact upon the UK’s own ship building industry.

So, Labour are urging a change of direction, instead of contracting overseas let us award them to British firms, let us stand up for jobs in the UK, and let us help to develop a high-skill, high-wage economy which will benefit the many. It is hard to see where the Government’s opposition to this proposal comes from, the policy is far from unusual. Both Germany and France have shown that building at home promotes the national economy and encourages local innovation, something from which the UK could benefit.

In Crawley, the council is already ensuring money from Crawley is invested back into Crawley. While we are legally required to run an open and fair procurement process for contracts, we have built in a requirement to ensure local firms do not go ignored in the tendering process. The council’s Developer and Partner Charter requires firms with council contracts to provide and promote career and small business opportunities in the Crawley area. We even run a ‘Buy Local’ campaign and support events designed to connect local suppliers and buyers.

There is no reason British businesses lack the skills or ability to deliver on Government contracts and there’s no legal reason they can’t be offered them. Labour thinks we should ‘Build it in Britain’, it certainly makes sense to me.

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