Name change heralds end of Britain as industrial nation

13th July 2007 at 01:00

In the hype caused by Gordon Brown becoming Prime Minister and the creation of a new cabinet, attention was focused on who got what the "winners and losers". A closer inspection of the changes brought about by the new PM suggests that, in the longer term, we are all likely to be losers. Far more important than who got what seat round the cabinet table is the change in what was formerly called the Department of Trade and Industry. This has now been replaced by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR). The change in name and the ditching of "industry" is not a question of semantics or accident. Industry is obviously a dirty word and had to go. It is a poignant indication of the direction the Brown government intends to take. It is starkly reminiscent of the creation of Defra. Agriculture, being the dirty word at the time, was dumped when, in June 2001, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was replaced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with "responsibility for promoting the social, economic and environmental well-being of rural areas and, in partnership with the Countryside Agency, encourage other government departments to deliver their responsibilities in ways that meet the needs of rural areas". No mention of food. Consequently, six years on, most farmers, far from growing food, are paid not to do so. A similar fate awaits what remains of our industry. The Government website states: "The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform will lead work to create the conditions for business success through competitive and flexible markets that create value for businesses, consumers and employees. It will work across government and with the regions to raise levels of UK productivity, promoting the creation and growth of business." No mention of industry or manufacture. The implications are wide-ranging impacting on schools, colleges and universities as much as on employment and trade. Over a number of years, courses in engineering and technology have been closed in favour of hairdressing and beauty therapy. The neglect of engineering and technology is a dangerous path to take, yet this is now destined to continue. Just how many nail bars can a High Street sustain? Of course, all of this is music to those who champion a post-industrial society; the service economy so beloved of Thatcher and Blair, serving other people's industrial needs. Blair's legacy may have been the destruction of a foreign country, Iraq. That of Gordon Brown could well be far worse; the destruction of our own industrial Britain.;Further Education Fawzi Ibrahim Senior lecturer and author, ex-hon treasurer of NATHFE, one of four trustees of UCU

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