Presents from my children often include history books – I suppose they think it reminds me of my youth!

And, in reading The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, it became quickly obvious that the success and influence of

the UK by the end of the Victorian era was based on two factors.

The first was our ability to fight wars world-wide but, more importantly, the strength and global influence of our manufacturing industry.

Since that time few of you need to be reminded that this dominant manufacturing base has declined with alarming speed to the point where it now contributes less than 20% of GDP.

We are told that pension schemes are in crisis because of the poor performance of the stock market. The stock market has historically been based largely on the success of manufacturing industry.

If manufacturing industry does not perform well, the stock market inevitably suffers and the present crisis comes into even closer focus.

Industry continues to be ignored by UK government and the cost of compliance, particularly with respect to those levels of taxation which are unique to the UK and not mirrored elsewhere in the EU, places us continuously at a disadvantage.

I have heard figures which state that last year UK industry faced the burden of no less than 4642 new regulations. The cost of this burden is estimated at a staggering £3bn.

The packaging industry is a crucial part of our manufacturing and supply base and maintaining a strong UK packaging sector is in the interests of everyone.

It is the duty of every business to take up a lobbying position to bring these facts most forcibly to the attention of the government.

Only in this way will we have the opportunity, before it is too late, to reverse a trend that can only lead to the ultimate further economic disadvantage of this country.

John E Webb-Jenkins is chief executive of the Institute of Packaging