Examination of Witnesses (Questions 556-559)
MR DIGBY JONES, MR MICHAEL ROBERTS AND MR BARNEY STRINGER
WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2002
556. Can I welcome you to the final session this morning on the Planning Green Paper and ask you to identify yourselves for the record.
(Mr Jones) Thank you, Chairman. Good morning to you all. I am Digby Jones. I am Director-General of the CBI. On my right I have Michael Roberts. He is my Director of Business Environment Policy. On my left I have Barney Stringer who is our Head of Group for infrastructure matters.
557. Thank you very much. Do you want to say anything by way of an opening statement, or do you want to go straight to questions?
(Mr Jones) I have just one overriding point setting the scene. The United Kingdom operates in a fundamentally changed and fiercely competitive world. Whether we like it or not, and whatever the politics of it are, globalisation means that competitiveness in job creation has never been more at the top of everybody's agenda. Since it is perfectly clear, since the events of last Wednesday and National Insurance contributions, that job creation is clearly essential if we are going to pay for the quality Health Service we need, then it is so important that business, the job creator, has an environment in which it can get on with doing the job. In every respect, every survey we conduct, every business we talk to, and indeed when the CBI and the TUC came together to formulate their report on problems with productivity and how we could improve it for the Chancellor last year, planning is always at the top of the agenda as a fetter on the productivity enhancement and the job creation in British business. In that respect, whether it be a delay to Terminal Five, whether it be a small business just looking to expand, whether it be a delay of up to two years in creating jobs at Bristol Airport, we have a system that currently does not work. It was created for a different set of circumstances with Britain in a different global architecture. Today we have a system that is failing the country. It is failing job creation and it is therefore going to fail the wealth creation the country needs to pay for its public services. So we are broadly supportive of this Green Paper. British business sees a lot of good in the way that the change is being sought. We have problems and objections to do with certain parts of it, especially to do with planning obligations, but at the end of the day at least this provides a start and acknowledges that the current system is letting the country down.
558. Mr Jones, you have used the words that you "broadly support" the Green Paper. When it was first published you seemed more enthusiastic than you lately have appeared to be. Is that because it almost goes too far, it is too radical, and all you really wanted was the speeding up of the existing system?
(Mr Jones) No, my enthusiasm for it has not dimmed one iota from when it first came out until now. What I was saying was that I broadly support because of the fact I cannot unreservedly support it. Remember, we had the first bit announced and then the planning obligation bit and therefore what you read of my support was basically support for the bit that we support and then a week or so later came our criticism of the planning obligation aspects, which we did not support at the time and certainly do not now. If you are looking at it as a whole, come today, I broadly support it.
559. Can I ask you about the certainty aspect. Do you think it satisfies businesses' need for certainty?
(Mr Jones) It is going in the right direction with the speed we need and we need to know where we stand and we need to be dealing with quality people at the other end. If those three things are delivered, we would be satisfied. Do we think this provides enough of that? No, but it is going in the right direction and then every element of the community has to get on board with it and make it work.