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13 Aug 03. Engineers believe the government as a whole does not take manufacturing industry’s interests fully into account when making policy decisions, by a majority of 87% to 6%, according to the latest survey by Professional Engineering magazine.

The survey, conducted for the 13 August issue of PE, the magazine of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, was sent to 600 engineers throughout the country by e-mail and received 333 responses. All readers surveyed are professional engineers between the ages of 25 and 65 in full time employment.

Just over half (53%) said they felt the decline in the sector, which has shrunk from producing a fifth to a sixth of GDP since the mid 1990s, could be reversed in the next 10 years. However, only 5% believe it will be while a resounding 86% believe the decline will not be turned around.

The survey also asked questions about the effectiveness of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the light of negotiations within government concerning the purchase of British-made Hawk aeroplanes.

Given reports that the DTI wanted to keep out of the affair – which saw the Treasury pressing for a cheaper, foreign option while the Ministry of Defence wanted the familiar, proven British technology – despite claims that jobs were at risk if the work went abroad, we asked readers if they felt it is one of the DTI’s jobs to represent UK manufacturing industry inside government. An overwhelming 93% said yes, with just 2% disagreeing.

Should the government take factors such as the loss of UK jobs into account when assessing the cost of defence and other capital equipment, we asked. Again, clear agreement: 95% said yes, with only 4% against.

We also asked if the Treasury is right to require government departments to take the cheapest option wherever possible. Our engineers said no, by 78%, against 19% in favour.

Comment: If only engineering fitted into the Tony Blair view of New Britain. When this government came to power it was determined to rid the Uk of old images, the Lords, Farmers and industry. Blair and his luvvies believed that this country could survive on a mixture of the professional classes, bankers and lawyers, the media, Formula 1 and the internet and dot com revolution! Sadly he failed to do his home work and made promises that he could not keep, particularly that of ‘wiring up the whole of the UK!’ One only has to live in Scotland and play hunt the broadband! This policy and one of disastrous management appears to be one of the reasons why the UK’s biggest and best company Marconi was brought down. The huge loss of industry jobs shown today in the Times only makes the situation more desperate. No single economy has ever relied on service industries alone and the next 10 years will show, particularly in Scotland how bleak the economy can get without a wealth creating economy and no consumer boom. The defence sector, whilst buoyed up in the short term by the salvation of the Hawk deal, does not seem top of the luvvie list and we must only hope that Iain Duncan-Smith and his team can come up with a credible industrial policy to preserve what we have. The loss of the Alstom turbine business in Lincoln this week following the failure of government to support a deal in Malaysia is the loss of a once important export earner. Would we see the US or France do that to GE or Alstom or Siemens in Germany, I doubt it!

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