Appointing Lord Heseltine to lead a review of the government’s growth plan was a risky decision as not only was he always going to say exactly what he thought, but he was also going to say it from his own particular interventionist stance. It was originally a Steve Hilton idea, and the PM’s guru must be enjoying reading what Heseltine has to say from the comfortable distance of a sabbatical in California. The report, No Stone Unturned in Pursuit of Growth, is as honest as ministers might have expected, pointing out that business believe that ‘the UK does not have a strategy for growth and wealth creation’, criticising an ‘inertia’ over airport policy, and warning that ‘continuing as now is not an acceptable option. The world will not stand still – and nor must we’. He criticises a lack-of joined up thinking, saying:
‘Whitehall continues to approach these issues from the individual policy priorities of different departments as if economic issues can be effectively addressed in a placeless vacuum.’
The key points that he makes are:
- Ministers should draw up a National Growth Strategy, create a National Growth Council along similar lines to the National Security Council, and appoint a Growth Minister.
- The government must speed up decision-making on airport capacity, with Sir Howard Davies reporting the findings of his commission next year.
- £48 billion of Whitehall funding for housing, local infrastructure, jobs and business support should be pooled into a pot along with £9 billion of EU funding which local enterprise partnerships should bid for.
- A shake-up of the immigration system would make it easier for businesses to hire skilled foreign workers such as engineers.