Master and Mistress Cutler.
My lords, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me start by thanking the Senior Warden for being so forthright in his remarks.
I always knew Yorkshiremen were direct!
But I was genuinely interested in what John had to say.
Because I’m not just here tonight to talk.
I’m here to listen.
After all, good friends are open and honest with each other.
And I hope that, 20 minutes from now, you’ll appreciate that I’ve been candid with you too.
I know that might not be easy for all of you.
I can think of a few reasons why not everyone in Sheffield will be delighted to hear from me this evening!
For one thing I’m a proud member of the Conservative Party.
It’s OK, you can boo if you want.
I’m also a big fan of the late Lady Thatcher.
When she spoke at this dinner 33 years ago she was greeted by 2,000 protesters being held back by mounted police.
It was one of the warmer welcomes she received in the north of England!
But if all that wasn’t bad enough, I have one more sin to confess to the good people of Yorkshire.
I come, originally, from a distant, foreign land.
A place many of you will find strange.
A little primitive.
Even a little scary.
I’m a Lancastrian.
I was born under the Red Rose, in Rochdale.
And the highlight of my year as Secretary of State for Sport was walking out from the pavilion at Old Trafford.
For that, I can only beg your forgiveness.
More than 400 years ago, calligrapher Peter Bales wrote that “for a good knife … Sheffield is best”.
That was back in 1590, half a century before the Cutlers’ Feast became an annual event.
Yet even then Sheffield’s name was forged into the public imagination as a byword for quality in manufacturing.
In 2016 that’s still the case.
The companies represented in this hall tonight are some of the finest engineers and metalworkers not just in Yorkshire or Britain but in the world.
But that doesn’t mean Sheffield itself has remained unchanged for half a millennium.
Ask many young people what this city means to them and they won’t mention heavy industry at all. They’ll talk about the offbeat nightclubs. The Devonshire Quarter. Warp Records.
Business leaders will talk about the cutting-edge R&D and world-class universities.
Elite sportsmen and women will tell you about Ponds Forge or the Olympic Legacy Park.
Sheffield’s story has always been one of regeneration, reinvention and renewal.
Not forgetting the past or ignoring it, but building on it.
Learning from it.
Shunning conventional wisdom and focusing on what works.
That’s what makes this city so successful.
That’s what makes your businesses so successful.
And at risk of blowing my own trumpet, that’s what’s made our government’s support for industry so successful too.
That’s why I was slightly puzzled by the Senior Warden’s suggestion that Britain is crying out for an industrial strategy.
Because we already have one.
You can argue about what it should contain, what it should seek to achieve.
But you can’t deny that it exists.
My department has had a fully functioning industrial strategy for several years now.
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Working with business we’ve taken real action to put in place the strategic support that British industry needs.
We’ve set up the Aerospace Technology Institute.
The Advanced Propulsion Centre.
The Automotive Investment Organisation.
The Infrastructure and Projects Authority.
Today I visited the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which we’ve supported with hundreds of millions of pounds.
There’s the Nuclear Industry Council and the Offshore Wind Investment Organisation.
We’ve launched Catapult Centres, Innovation Centres and Catalyst Funds.
A short walk from Cutlers’ Hall stands the headquarters of the British Business Bank.
That is what an industrial strategy looks like.
And the results are clear to see.
Manufacturing employment is up.
Manufacturing exports are up.
Manufacturing output is up.
All that in the face of an intensely competitive global market.
So I believe in industrial strategy all right.
I just think one that delivers growth and jobs is better than one delivers stagnation and decline.
And that applies to ALL industries, not just a chosen few.
Sheffield is still a manufacturing city in the UK’s manufacturing heartland.
But it’s also a city of vibrant, thriving cultural industries.
It’s home to a rapidly growing tourist industry.
To a retail sector that, from Meadowhall to Fargate to Division Street, employs tens of thousands of people.
And all those sectors deserve our support too.
So the old industrial strategy’s closed shop has been replaced with an open door.
We’re still supporting the 11 key sectors Vince Cable identified, that’s not changed.
But I’m not going to ignore a multi-billion pound part of the economy simply because its name’s not on the list.
Britain’s business leaders deserve a strategy as wide-ranging as the economy you serve so well.
A strategy of deeds, not words.
And that’s exactly what you’re getting from this government.
We’re cutting Corporation Tax to the lowest level of any major industrialised nation.
So more of your hard-earned profits stay right here in Yorkshire rather than being sent off to Whitehall.
We’ve raised the investment allowance to its highest-ever permanent level.
So you don’t get penalised for putting money back into your businesses.
We’ve lifted thousands of smaller companies out of Employer National Insurance Contributions.
So you don’t get taxed for creating jobs.
We’ve passed the Enterprise Act, cut billions of pounds of red tape and protected funding for science technology, innovation and the future of manufacturing.
And we’re continuing to take serious, sustained action to support the British steel industry.
Of course, there are some things no national government can do.
We cannot change the global steel price.
But that doesn’t mean we’re standing by and doing nothing.
We were the first government to implement new guidelines making it easier for the public sector to buy British steel.
We have paid out tens of millions of pounds to compensate energy intensive industries, and we will be exempting them from renewable policy costs.
We’re working hard to help Tata find a buyer for its strip products and speciality steel division – I was at Stocksbridge just today.
We’ve made it clear that we’ll offer financial support to help secure a deal.
And, despite what some political point-scorers would have you believe, we are consistently fighting for British steel in Europe.
I pushed for and secured an emergency meeting of the EU Council to co-ordinate a continent-wide approach.
I secured flexibility over new emissions rules so that steel companies aren’t faced with even higher bills.
I have led calls for the speeding up of trade defence investigations.
And I have repeatedly supported tariffs on unfairly traded steel.
All have led to a significant drop in Chinese imports.
I’m not a fan of tariffs and duties.
I certainly don’t believe in protectionism.
But I’m even less keen on unfair trading.
And where the rules of the free market are being flouted, I won’t hesitate to step up and demand action.
Because I am a Business Secretary who is not afraid to fight for British industry.
Yes, I believe in the transformative power of capitalism.
Yes, I believe in free markets.
But, unlike some, I’m not bound by ideology.
I’m interested in doing what works, even if it means government stepping in to help.
That’s why I’m proud to have introduced the National Living Wage.
That’s why I’m proud to be introducing the Apprenticeship Levy.
And that’s why I’m proud to play a role in creating a Northern Powerhouse.
I’m committed to it, and the government is committed to it.
It’s not just rhetoric.
It’s not just some short-term marketing campaign.
It’s a serious vision for the future of the North.
And it’s a vision that we’re working hard to turn into reality.
For too long, the north was neglected by successive governments.
As a result, productivity is lower than average.
Skill levels are lower.
In the region that gave the world the railways, transport infrastructure has been allowed to decay.
Repairing that damage will take time.
It won’t happen overnight.
But we’re in this for the long-haul.
Last autumn we pledged to invest £13 billion in northern transport over the course of this Parliament.
Sheffield will be connected to Britain’s new high speed rail network, linking this great city to its counterparts in the north, south and Midlands.
One of the National Colleges for High Speed Rail will be based in Doncaster.
Last year I took 50 companies to Singapore and Malaysia in the first-ever Northern Powerhouse overseas trade mission.
It was a huge success, helping employers from across the region build business links that will pay off for years to come.
Now the Senior Warden raised the Master Cutler’s forthcoming trade mission to Canada.
I can promise that I’ll be looking into that. What we can still do to help, both before you set off and once you’re on the ground.
It’s the kind of project the government should be supporting.
And it’s exactly the kind of thing we have supported in the past.
Since 2012 we’ve offered financial assistance to at least 3 South Yorkshire International Trade Forum trips.
Back here at home we’re investing £14 million in Sheffield’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre.
We’re investing £11 million in tech incubators here and in Manchester and Leeds.
£250 million will help support the region’s Centre of Nuclear Excellence.
More than £300 million is coming to the Sheffield City Region through the local growth deal.
There’s £8 million to build the digital infrastructure that all 21st century businesses rely on.
£14 million for the Enterprise Zone at Markham Vale.
All this is possible because we believe that government should be investing in business, not in more government.
That we can’t go on spending and borrowing, manufacturing nothing but an ever-larger public sector.
That we cannot and should not leave a huge burden of debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off.
That’s why I told my department to find £350 million of savings over the next 5 years.
I want BIS to be leaner.
I want it to be more efficient, more flexible, more focussed, just like the businesses it serves.
I want us to be spending money where it can really make a difference.
Those £350 million savings are being found in lots of ways.
We’re cutting our headcount related to operating expenses by up to 40%.
We’re halving the number of public bodies.
And we’re reducing our number of offices.
The proposal to close our Sheffield office is one part of that.
This hall is full of business leaders.
You know that no employer ever takes pleasure in proposing redundancies, however necessary they may be.
It’s painful, it’s difficult.
And it’s certainly not a reflection of the quality of work being done at St Paul’s Place.
Nor is it a sign that we’re turning our backs on the north and hunkering down in London.
Even if all of the proposed restructuring goes ahead, more than 80% of BIS staff will still be based outside the capital.
We’re also reducing the size of our London footprint, both in terms of office space and headcount.
Above all, we’re doing more with less so that we can really focus on what matters most.
Delivering for businesses across the country, across Yorkshire, and right here in Sheffield.
But the Northern Powerhouse has never been just about investment in infrastructure.
It’s about giving the people of the north the tools they need to succeed, and the freedom they need to do so.
Nobody knows this part of the world better than you, and nobody is better-placed to build a better future for it.
That’s why a core plank of the powerhouse is devolution.
Next year the people of the Sheffield city region will vote for their first ever directly elected mayor.
Breaking down barriers between counties, cities and local authorities, allowing the people of the region to come together and work together to deliver success.
London, Bristol and Liverpool have been revolutionised by single elected mayors.
Now it’s your turn.
Of course, it’s not the only vote that’s coming up.
As you may have noticed, there’s the small matter of the EU referendum to deal with too!
As the Senior Warden said, the uncertainty is already causing problems for businesses here in Sheffield.
That’s something I’m hearing from businesses right across the UK.
But if on the 23 June we vote to leave the EU, we won’t wake up the next morning and find the uncertainty has evaporated.
British businesses will be looking at years of it while we unpick existing trade agreements and negotiate new ones.
I spent enough time in business to know that uncertainty, doubt and fear stops investment and kills jobs.
That’s the last thing Sheffield needs right now.
I recognise that the EU is a long way from perfect.
I share the Senior Warden’s concerns about the gold-plating of directives, something I’m personally leading the fight against in Whitehall.
So I’m certainly not some born-again Europhile.
But I do love British business and British industry.
I want them to succeed, I want them to thrive.
And that’s why I’d urge you all to head to the polling stations next month and vote for Britain to remain a member of the European Union.
Master Cutler, in centuries past this feast used to go on for up to two weeks.
I can’t imagine what that did to local productivity levels!
But times have changed, and I fear I’ve already spoken for too long.
So let me finish by saying this.
These are exciting times for Sheffield.
And I’m not just talking about Wednesday making the play-off final!
Thanks to your ceaseless efforts and this government’s unstinting support, the number of jobs in and around Sheffield has risen by 60,000 since 2010.
More people are working, fewer are claiming benefits.
The city region has got more productive.
More than 20,000 young people have started an apprenticeship.
The challenges facing business are many.
However, Sheffield is responding by doing what it has always done.
Adapting, innovating, doing things nobody else can do.
And as long as you do that, as long as you strive to succeed through honest endeavour, I will be proud to stand alongside you.
I will do everything I can to help nurture and support that success.
And I will always be ready to listen.
300 years ago Sheffield steelworkers kept trying to take their trade secrets and set up shop on the continent.
I’m told the company spent a small fortune stopping them.
But the fact is that Europe and the world wanted the ideas and the products that only Sheffield could produce.
That’s what made ‘Made in Sheffield’ a badge of honour in the first place.
And that’s why this city continues to thrive today.
So I’m not going to stand here and say “Sheffield was great and can be great again”.
Because I know that Sheffield IS great.
And together we can make it greater still.
My lords, ladies and gentlemen: “The manufacturing industries of Hallamshire”.