Government willing to do further deals to support sectors of the economy

Theresa May has identified the nuclear sector as a key UK growth sector that could get more state support, as part of her government’s new industrial strategy.

The prime minister published the strategy at a cabinet meeting in the north-west of England today, which set out five sectors lined up for special support: nuclear, life sciences, low-carbon-emission vehicles, industrial digitalisation and creative industries.

Support may come in the form of deregulation, help with trade deals, or increased investment in skills or research.

Further deals for other sectors will only be available if they organise themselves and make the case for government action - with May citing the automotive and aerospace industries as good examples. This throws the gauntlet down to the wider construction sector, which has generally struggled to organise to speak to government with one voice.

May’s decision to back nuclear comes as the industry is gearing up to build the first new-build nuclear power plant in a generation, £18bn Hinkley Point C in Somerset. Further nuclear plants are also planned - including £14bn Wylfa Newydd in Wales and £10bn Moorside in Cumbria - with the government putting the estimated value of the nuclear new build industry at £80bn.

May also announced £556m of new funding for the Northern Powerhouse, with the cash to be split between the region’s 11 local enterprise partnerships.

May’s industrial strategy was welcomed by sector leaders. Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG UK, commented: “I welcome today’s clear articulation by the government of its industrial strategy and in particular the recognition that infrastructure and R&D investment are vital catalysts for economic success.

“The openness of the government’s invitation to support sectors which can unite under strong leadership is also to be applauded, but will present a challenge to the construction industry whose voice in government is fragmented.”

Heavyweight contractor Mace put out its own infrastructure charter to co-incide with publication of the industrial strategy, which called for greater incentives for firms to invest in R&D, mayor-led infrastructure enterprise zones, drawing and keeping talent in the North, and rolling out devolved transport delivery bodies.