Letters: manufacturing is the key to our future | Manufacturing sector

Torsten Bell’s op-ed is compelling and, as always, well-argued (“Why be a bad version of Germany instead of doing what we do best?”, Commentary). I am concerned, however, that it seems to exclude a broader development of the manufacturing sector. A lesson learned from the pandemic is certainly that the UK, indeed the West in general, has “outsourced” too much of its manufacturing to China and Asia.

By all means, let’s follow Mr. Bell’s battle cry and focus on the areas of the economy in which we excel. But let’s also develop a manufacturing sector that could provide good jobs and a viable wage package for the working poor struggling to survive in the gig economy, not to mention opening up apprenticeships to young people who don’t like college or university. Let’s incentivize entrepreneurs who are ready to set up small factories with tax breaks and financial support to recruit and train a new workforce, including apprentices.
Barrington Carpenter
Herstmonceux, Hailsham, East Sussex

Torsten Bell says manufacturing is not our forte and the UK should focus on its service economy in shaping future economic policy. The UK certainly has strengths in its services sector, but it also has an equally strong manufacturing base.

Gone are the days of dark, dirty factories and the production of shoddy consumer goods. Today, manufacturing relies on advanced, state-of-the-art technologies. As the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, the UK has expertise in areas such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, space, life sciences and chemicals. The sector accounts for half of UK exports and two-thirds of R&D spending, which is crucial for developing the very high value-added industries and high-skilled jobs that the economy will need in the future.

A successful economic strategy should indeed focus on the UK’s existing strengths, but also on those sectors of the economy that will thrive through accelerating technology, harnessing the strengths of our academic science base. We are past the stage of debating whether to focus on services or manufacturing: there can and should be room for both in a prosperous economy.
Stephen PhipsonCEO, Make UK
London SW1

Manufacturing is the country’s main driver of innovation and productivity. It also has a strong regional dimension, being six times more important for the Midlands economy than for London. Advanced manufacturing jobs are highly skilled and offer higher salaries. So-called ‘traditional’ sectors, such as ceramics, are now key elements of the UK’s advance in materials science and its applications. Sustaining manufacturing capacity will be key to leveling and shaping the new sectors and jobs of the future.
Professor Phil Tomlinson

Less taxes, more inequality

All Tory leadership candidates sooner or later promise tax cuts, but they ignore to research by LSE and King’s College London (“After the coup, the contest that will expose the cracks in a fractured party”, News). Reducing taxes on the rich, she shows, has no significant effect on economic growth or unemployment, but simply leads to a higher top income share and thus income inequality. Governments seeking to clean up public finances by growing the economy, as all the contenders claim, should not, however, worry about the economic consequences of raising taxes on the rich.

Right now, with little or no growth, new borrowing or austerity, which is Rishi Sunak’s preference, would be needed to pay for these tax cuts. But, as no one will own the loan, the poor, aid and the environment will once again suffer.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

Paying the price of confinement

Martha Gill’s article on the harm caused to young people by lockdowns comes as no surprise to many (“The evidence is mounting of the harms of lockdowns for young people. But we act as if nothing has happened”, Commentary ). A child psychiatrist friend told me a few months ago about the emerging tsunami of mental health issues he was witnessing. A key sentence of the article is this: “It [lockdown] came out of necessity” – but did he? Our authorities made a moral choice, on behalf of society, to prioritize the needs of the elderly over the young, and those who disagreed were dismissed as eccentrics or callous libertarians. As Gill says, we conducted an unprecedented social experiment on our young people, without their consent.

This highlights how public health is part of a different ethical universe from the rest of medicine. In standard medicine, you cannot impose treatment on your patient without their consent – and in seeking their consent, you are obligated to tell them about the possible side effects of the treatment and to be honest about the balance of the risks. In the public health response to the pandemic, there seemed to be no such balanced ethical consideration; in fact, there was a seemingly deliberate policy of remaining vague about the real risks of Covid and the harms of lockdown, and letting fear, guilt and censorship encourage compliance with control measures. Young people are now paying the price.
Dr. Aodhan Breathnach
London SW17

Following Martha Gill’s observations that recent university admissions show immaturity, including a propensity for bullying, her call for research into the impact of Covid on all young people is indeed urgent. Our charity, Barefoot, provides youth work for young people aged 10-19 in three deprived communities in Plymouth. Our most recent intake – mostly 10-12 year olds – is wilder than any band we’ve known. Delayed levels of maturity, less self-control and less concern for their own well-being have all become evident to youth workers, who are no strangers to these traits but are quick to notice when things get obviously worse.

Add to this the lockdown legacy of increased levels of dangerous sexual activity among older adolescents and the spike in anti-social behavior when youth workers were deprived of face-to-face contact and you have a cocktail of trauma. which is bound to affect the future of these young people.

Solutions? Generalized research and an awareness that young people do not only exist at school. They need more youth work support and they need it now.
Richard Maraisdirector, Barefoot

vanity of vanities

Stephanie Merritt’s proposal that all celebrities, whether from politics or entertainment, should be required to publish their novels under a pseudonym would have the support of many fans of decent fiction (“That’s not true that everyone has a book in them: return the writing to the writers”, Commentary). I would go further. Any celebrity submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher must not use their own name and must refrain from exerting any influence. What would happen, I suppose, is that very few would be published at all, thus ridding the world of this particularly irritating variant of conceit.
Geoff Lavender
Chichester, West Sussex

Best of Preston? not so fast

Re “From hero of the Ashes to class warrior: Freddie Flintoff, a true all-rounder”, Profile): your subtitle was wrong. “Preston’s most famous son” is of course the incomparable Tom Finney.
Julian Ellis
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Marjorie N. McClure