Not too late for construction to be given a seat

SO, Tony Blair has gone and Gordon Brown is now in Number 10.

SO, Tony Blair has gone and Gordon Brown is now in Number 10.

And didn’t we all sit up and listen with interest when the new Prime Minister 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 reading this column will be able to name the person appointed to this 15-strong body to represent almost nine per cent of the country’s GDP.

The reason for that is simple. This person doesn’t exist. For all of his commendable announcements – and there is much to say in favour of his changes – 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.

Any casual reader of this column will know that the construction industry is having to cope with new or amended legislation pouring down from Government on a regular basis.

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 CIS scheme. I read with interest recently that the CIS helpline has received around 54,000 calls in each of the first 13 weeks since the scheme came in.

The Construction Act is another case in point.

As I’ve stated, 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 a better 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.

The other point of note was the appointment of Peter Hain as Secretary of State of Work and Pensions. For those with an eye on stronger punishment as a result of deaths on site, this will be key. Mr Hain strongly indicated his commitment to corporate manslaughter laws during his recent deputy leadership campaign.

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.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, contact regional director Catriona Lingwood on: (0191) 383-7435 or catriona@constructingexcellence-ne.org.uk

Phil Young is executive director of the Esh Group and board director of Constructing Excellence in the North East.

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