Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Business in Britain in the Twentieth CenturyDecline and Renaissance?$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Richard Coopey and Peter Lyth

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199226009

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199226009.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 12 December 2018

Industrial Policy in Twentieth Century Britain

Industrial Policy in Twentieth Century Britain

(p.48) Chapter 2 Industrial Policy in Twentieth Century Britain
Business in Britain in the Twentieth Century

Geoffrey Owen

Oxford University Press

The history of British industrial policy since the Second World War falls into two distinct periods, with the dividing line being the election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister in May 1979. In the first period, an explicit objective was to create and support large companies in what were thought to be strategic industries, in the hope that they would hold their own in world markets against American, Japanese, and European competitors. Aerospace, automobiles, computers, and electronics were among the industries that were supported in this way, sometimes through government-induced mergers, sometimes through subsidies for research and development. These policies were based on wishful thinking about the link between size and international competitiveness, and there was a failure to recognise the difficulty of making large-scale mergers work. Most of the ‘national champions’ created in the 1960s and 1970s came to grief. Government intervention in industry was anathema to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government, and industrial policy in the 1980s shifted towards horizontal, non-selective measures aimed at improving the business climate as a whole, not at promoting particular industries. Some elements of the old policy survived (for example, continuing support for the aircraft industry), but for the most part the government allowed the structure of industry to be determined by market forces. This implied, among other things, an enthusiastic welcome for foreign investment, even if it involved the take-over of large British industrial companies. When Labour returned to office in 1997, there was no return to the interventionism of the earlier post-war decades — no rescues of ‘lame ducks’, and no attempt to halt the decline of the manufacturing sector. While some observers believed that the absence of industrial policy had weakened the British economy, there was little political support for a change of direction.

Keywords:   industrial policy, strategic industries, subsidies, mergers, competitiveness

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .