Over the last year the Government has been making a number of positive moves around the future of medicines manufacturing in the UK. Following the General Election and the Queen’s Speech, it is an appropriate time to reflect on where we stand now.

The election result was not what the majority of commentators expected. Despite this, and despite the reduced Conservative majority, most of the Cabinet have kept their positions around the Cabinet table. The Business Secretary, Greg Clark MP, and Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, remain in post. The Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP, also remains in post, this is important given the role that he played in the Advanced Therapies Manufacturing Taskforce. The Government will continue with its Industrial Strategy and its Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. MMIP has been working closely with Government on the medicines manufacturing elements of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and will continue to do so.

 

Prior to the General Election, the Spring Budget highlighted that the £270m Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will focus some of its resources on ‘accelerating patient access to new drugs through developing brand new medicine manufacturing technologies’. Given that this Budget was agreed before the Election, we can be positive that this investment will continue.

The Queen’s Speech gives us an indication of what the Government will be focusing on over the next two years. Obviously, the largest part of the Government’s agenda focuses on Brexit.

The Repeal Bill, will convert EU law into UK law, it is unclear how much of an effect this will have on EU law governing medicines or how it might change. The Customs Bill and Trade Bill both focus on putting in place mechanisms to ensure the UK can continue to trade after Brexit, avoiding the ‘cliff edge’ of exit. We will need to wait for more details and the outcome of the Brexit negotiations before we can predict how the Customs and Trade Bills could impact on European and Global supply chains and trade. The Immigration Bill allows the UK to end free movement of people, the Government is keen to make clear that this will also allow the UK to continue to attract ‘the brightest and best’ and so we can be positive that we will continue to be able to address skills gaps where they exist.

The final Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech which may have an impact is the Draft Patient Protection Bill. This focuses on setting up an independent Health Service Safety Investigation Body and improving how the NHS learns from its mistakes. It is unclear whether this will impact on medicines, their regulation or their manufacture.

We are also likely to have a range of support across Parliament, including from Labour and the DUP, with who the Conservatives are still negotiating a ‘confidence and supply’ to allow them to govern.

  • The Labour manifesto includes commitments to developing high-skilled and high-paid jobs as part of its industrial strategy. The importance of manufacturing is littered throughout the manifesto, but without any specific reference to pharmaceuticals. There is a strong focus on SMEs and changes in technology being driven by smaller companies.
  • The DUP manifesto talks about building on Northern Ireland’s strong manufacturing base and accelerating innovation and research.

There has also been discussion of increasing spending to lift growth and living standards, with the Chancellor Philip Hammond saying that Britain is ‘weary’ of austerity. Mr Hammond may be looking at this sentiment in his next budget and, if there is to be any increase in public spending then surely targeting it on health, education and the infrastructure required to support the Industrial Strategy and sector growth should all be prime contenders? MMIP will continue to make the case to Government on what the UK medicines manufacturing sector needs to grow in the UK and for the UK to continue to be recognised by the global medicines industry as a world-class, advanced centre for medicines manufacturing.