# = pounds sterling HM Treasury News Release 9/99 18 January 1999 ----------------------------------------------------------------- GOVERNMENT ROADSHOWS REACH HALF-WAY STAGE TO A MORE COMPETITIVE BRITAIN The Government's unique UK-wide Productivity Challenge Roadshows reached the half-way stage today as the new Paymaster General Dawn Primarolo urged British business to contribute to the national debate and help tackle the productivity gap. Hosting the fifth joint Treasury/DTI roadshow with Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe Lord Simon at British Aerospace in Bristol, the Paymaster outlined the Government action in place to help Britain become more efficient and competition, and asked business to contribute to the debate with solutions of their own: "Recent months have seen the Government publish the pre- Budget Report, the Competitiveness White Paper and the Public Service Agreement White Paper - all aimed at improving efficiency and competition across industry. "But the Government doesn't have all the solutions to a problem which has seen our productivity drop to a 40 per cent gap with the US, and a 20 per cent gap with France and Germany. Business has a vital role to play in developing new policies that are right for business and for the economy. "That's why these roadshows are so important, in encouraging and stimulating the debate to help Britain become more successful. Tackling the productivity gap is a national priority, and the feedback we've received so far from the roadshows is helping enormously to fuel the debate." Lord Simon said: "Raising this country's productivity is a key national challenge. It is vital if we are to compete on a global basis. The Competitiveness White Paper and the Pre-Budget Report have set out this Government's agenda for modernising the economy. "It is for business to lead this process of modernisation, responding to the spur of competition and seizing market opportunities. Putting the concern of business at the heart of Government policy is central to our approach. Today's event is a further step in the process of focusing on how we can raise this country's game." The Government has embarked on a series of consultations on productivity issues, including: - Employee Share Ownership Schemes; - corporate venturing; how to encourage large companies to provide support and investment to smaller businesses; - tax incentives for research and development investment and how to make them more effective. In the next few months, the Government will set out ideas for a possible new tax measure to encourage small and medium sized enterprises to invest in R&D. NOTES TO EDITORS 1. The Productivity Roadshow was held at British Aerospace Airbus Ltd, Bristol. There will be similar regional events throughout the UK over the next few months, as part of the Government's consultation on the Pre-Budget Report. Ministers from a number of Government departments will be involved, and they will want to discuss directly with local business people and others possible solutions for closing the productivity gap. 2. The Pre-Budget Report was published on 3 November. As well as setting out the steps needed to secure high and stable levels of employment, it forms the basis for a wide ranging consultation on the steps that need to be taken to address the UK's long-standing productivity gap.