DIDN’T we all sit up and listen with interest when new Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he would be forming a “Government of all the talents”.
The introduction of Sir Digby Jones as Minister of State for Trade and Investment will add some significant experience to the Government.
And, indeed, the Business Council for Britain, set up as part of Mr Brown’s ministerial reforms, is a highly laudable concept. We’ve all heard how this body will include the likes of Sir Alan Sugar, but nobody has mentioned the construction industry representative on that council. In fact, I bet nobody will be able to name the person appointed to this 15-strong body to represent almost 9% of the country’s GDP.
The reason is simple. This person doesn’t exist. For all of his commendable announcements Mr Brown has overlooked one of the biggest sectors in British business.
You don’t have to be involved in the construction industry to realise that we, as much as any industry, would benefit from a voice close to the powers that be. If the construction industry is important enough to impose the raft of new or amended legislation pouring down from Government on a regular basis then this would suggest the industry is important enough to be represented on the Business Council.
A representative on the Business Council of Britain would be ideally placed to help advise on such changes and give Government the insight to help ensure such changes are workable, rather than problematic, for the industry.
Let’s face it, not every new regulation or legislation we’ve been subject to in recent years has been flawless. Far from it.
One example is the new Construction Industry Scheme which sets out rules for how payments to subcontractors must be handled. Such is the complexity of the scheme that the CIS helpline has received around 54,000 calls in each of the first 13 weeks since the scheme started.
Mr Brown hasn’t got it all wrong and there are a number of good points to his early Governmental attitude.
The new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills will, we hope, lead to better a skilled workforce in the future and I hope it will take the Leitch Report’s suggestions on giving industry a bigger say in the way courses are made up into account.
A man known for his eye for detail, Mr Brown has uncharacteristically missed a significant beat in his otherwise sound manoeuvrings but it is not too late for him to give construction a seat on the Business Council for Britain.
Phil Young is Chair of NECC Construction Sector Forum and Executive Director of Esh Group