Westminster's 'business comprehension deficit' deemed 'deeply worrying' by business leaders

Posted On: 
27th June 2019

Speaking at the 2019 Mineral Products Conference, sponsored by Wincanton, Chief Executive of the Mineral Products Association Nigel Jackson said “enough is enough” when it comes to current political gridlock at Westminster. 

“Governments would do well to listen more to those of us who operate beyond Westminster in the real and practical world,” said Nigel Jackson, Chief Executive of the Mineral Products Association.
Credit: 
MPA

Nigel Jackson, CEO of the Mineral Products Association, opened the 2019 Conference with a hard-hitting speech in which he argued there was “significant business comprehension deficit in political Westminster” which was “deeply worrying”.

His speech to the Conference, hosted at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, quickly turned to the topic of Brexit, and he called on Government to involve industry more in decision making:

“Governments would do well to listen more to those of us who operate beyond Westminster in the real and practical world.”

“The nation remains split down the middle and as time goes by original convictions seem to be hardening. But on one thing MPA is united, enough is enough.

“The ugly and unprofessional behaviour we have seen in parliament and the Westminster bubble over the last year or so has been unacceptable.”

Jackson announced the MPA would shortly launch a Good Neighbour Scheme to engage communities and build trust between local people and the mineral products industry. 

Professor Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor at Kings College London, highlighted the strain Brexit had placed on the UK political system.

“This division reflects a deep-seated cultural division,” he said.

“It is wrecking the party system as this cuts across both parties. That division is within both major parties.”

Bogdanor also criticised MPs behaviour: “They are against everything, and that is irresponsible”.

“Theresa May got a better agreement than we had a right to expect”, he stated.

Pressed to make a prediction on the outcome of Brexit by journalist and newsreader Sophie Rayworth, who was chairing the event, Bogdanor said a “benign scenario” would involve the EU agreeing to amend the Irish back-stop and consequently the Withdrawal Agreement being voted through Parliament.

However, the Professor was keen to emphasise the Withdrawal Agreement was “just the prelude” to negotiations with the EU, as the substantive debate would be on the future relationship.

Diversity

Another key area of concern for the expert panel was the lack of diversity and skills in the construction industry. Keith Waller, Programme Director, Transforming Construction Alliance, gave a passionate speech on the need for the construction industry to diversify to deliver better outcomes for the built environment. He said only focusing on cost analysis “narrow” and argued the construction industry must “think about value through a different lens”.

“We should be seeking to modernise and boost the productivity of the construction industry.”

On skills, Waller said: “We need to try and think about an industry which is less traditional in terms of the people working in it. I would like to have the construction and infrastructure sectors better reflecting society itself.

“We need to reflect the diverse society which we serve.”

Moving forward

Nigel Jackson paid tribute to the determination and enterprise of his trade association’s members and argued the mineral products industry would be resilient to Brexit uncertainty, even if the unpredictability of the Brexit outcome ultimately damaged British businesses in the coming years.

The Government has ambitious housing targets, with policies to increase supply gaining support across the House. Reflecting on this drive to get more homes built, Jackson reminded the audience:

“The planning system is not just there for housing it is there for the whole economy and is key to unlocking minerals.

“When you say more housing, remember you will need more mineral products.

“Make the link between your aspirations for a prosperous country and improved quality of life and the mineral resources that enable it and do not assume supply.”