Over the past few months Britain's industrial output has been falling at a rapid rate. But, as Lucy Siegle discovered, British manufacturing was in decline long before the current recession.
In December official figures showed that manufacturing output declined at its fastest rate since 1981, underscoring the fragile state of the UK economy. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it fell 10.2 per cent from a year earlier as recession hit the sector.
For the final three months of 2008 output fell 5.1 per cent, the biggest quarterly fall since 1974.
The real worry is that the various industrial surveys suggest that things are set to get even worse over the coming months, with no signs at all that the drop in the exchange rate is yet boosting manufacturers' export order books.
This has lead to calls for the government to bail out slumping manufacturing companies in the same way as the US government did for car maker GM who received a $6 billion bail out package last year.
If that wasn't bad enough, engineering entrepreneur James Dyson believes there are not enough people leaving school and university with engineering qualifications which is leading to a national skills shortage. And CBI officials have stated that the government needs to do more to encourage children to seek out jobs in engineering.
But what do you think? Is the outlook for Britain's manufacturing industry really that gloomy? And should the government now step in? Have your say.