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Conservatives leading on 'industrial policy' say CBI

Published on 16/09/09 at 11:32am


A change of government would benefit UK pharma, according to the Confederation of British Industry, which says the industry might receive more support from the Conservative party.

CBI director general Richard Lambert criticised Labour's handling of medicines pricing in the UK and said a more strategic approach was needed.

He said: "Political parties are now converging on the idea that industrial policy is not a bad idea. It's been a bad word, almost like a swear word, for the last 30 years.

"But it is the Conservative party that is thinking about industrial policy in a way it hasn't [been thought about] for a decade or five."

Lambert was speaking at the launch of Prescription for Innovation, a new manifesto for life sciences laid out by the ABPI and CBI, and unveiled at the Imperial College London.

The manifesto explains that rapid improvements in the R&D environment are needed if the UK's life sciences sector is to remain competitive globally.

It outlines what the industry could do in partnership with the present or a new government to create a better business environment, and is a significant move ahead of the next general election expected in May 2010.

At the meeting Lambert criticised the Labour government's handling of the Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement scheme (PPRS). He said the government's lack of industry understanding was demonstrated when in 2008 it tore up the five-year plan, more than two years ahead of schedule.

There was also much talk of a new kind of "political leadership", and hope for a new Conservative government was implicit.

Chris Brinsmead, president of the ABPI, said: "Political leadership is critical to ensuring that the industry continues to improve people's health, gives value to the NHS and provides a return to the taxpayer in terms of its investment in the UK."

He was joined in his call for a change by ABPI director general Dr Richard Barker, who said the industry association was in discussion with all political parties in London, as well as the Welsh and Scottish governments, in order to affect change and open up dialogue with various players ahead of the next election.

When asked directly if a new government was really what the association wanted and needed, he admitted to choosing his words carefully, and said: "We do need a sea change of attitudes and practices in this country."

The Conservatives have been setting out their stall as the pharma-friendly party for some time now.

Speaking exclusively to Pharmafocus last December shadow health minister Mark Simmonds said: "We certainly would not have done what the current government have, and broken an agreement [the PPRS] halfway through. It created an enormous amount of uncertainty in the pharmaceutical industry and an enormous amount of concern.

"There is no doubt the policies that the government are forming, in terms of taxation, bureaucracy and red tape, are starting to drive pharmaceutical companies outside of the UK. We want to reverse that."

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