Examination of Witnesses (Questions 992-999)|
7 OCTOBER 2008
Q992 Chairman: Good morning and welcome.
Could I first of all ask you to introduce yourselves for the record,
Mr Rosser: Yes.
I am David Rosser, Director for the CBI in Wales.
Mr Jenkins: Leighton Jenkins,
Head of Policy for the CBI in Wales.
Q993 Chairman: First of all, could
I thank you for the memorandum you sent us and for the comprehensive
nature of the memorandum. Whilst this session is essentially about
education and training, we are keen to ask you about other questions
in response to your memorandum, so it will be somewhat more wide-ranging,
and I understand that you would welcome that.
Mr Rosser: We would, thank you.
Q994 Chairman: First of all, could
I just ask a general question about what impact devolution has
had for employers located near to the Wales/England border.
Mr Rosser: I think increasingly
we are seeing different policy environments developing in Wales
compared to the rest of the UK, and in particular England. It
strikes us that is a natural consequence of devolution.
Q995 Chairman: We have acoustic problems
in this room.
Mr Rosser: I am sorry. It strikes
me we have had an increasingly different policy context developing
in Wales from that which employers see in England and the rest
of the United Kingdom and that is an entirely natural consequence
of the devolution process. There are two broad impacts on business
arising from that. Firstly, there are consequences in what I would
call the general business environment within which companies operate.
I have some examples here: the lower use of public-private partnerships,
for example, including PFI, in Wales is leading to different infrastructure
pressures and less investment in the public infrastructure in
Wales and, indeed, lower business opportunities for companies
which might otherwise have been involved in those markets, and
that is of general concern. Different planning regimes and different
policies towards a reform of planning is something else which
impacts on the general business environment. The second broad
impact is around specific policy decisions which will impact directly
on companies and their day-to-day activities. There are a couple
of examples here. Building regulations being devolved to the Welsh
Assembly Government will have a tangible impact on companies involved
in the development industry. The Welsh Assembly is currently developing
a policy on fees or contributions from employers towards post-19
education and training. Depending where that policy ends up, one
could see very real differences to companies in the day-to-day
operating environment. What would business like to see happening
as a result of these differences? I think, first of all, the key
issue is one of communicating to business. The Welsh Assembly
Government, when it is imposing and implementing different policies
must communicate how the environment in Wales is different and
what companies can expect to see in Wales. Some of the written
evidence from Airbus is particularly pertinent in that respect.
The other issue that we are quite keen to push at the Welsh Assembly
Government is that the calculation of the costs of different policy
decisions in Wales should be made at a very early stage and made
in a very transparent fashion. The Welsh Assembly Government is
currently consulting on an Impact Assessment Code to match the
Impact Assessment Code which operates for the UK Government on
UK policy. We are very keen that should be as wide as possible
so that where we have different policy decisions taken by a democratically
elected government in the Welsh Assembly we understand the consequences
and where those costs will fall.
Q996 Mr Martyn Jones: Where further
and higher education policies differ between England and Wales,
are those differences made clear to you as an organisation?
Mr Rosser: They are sometimes
clear and sometimes less so to us as a business organisation.
To individual companies they are frequently not clear until a
company tries to access funding to introduce apprenticeships or
whatever other training scheme it is looking to do and then discovers
that actually things have changed and maybe are different from
its English operations. That is not always worse; just different.
I have one example of a company which operates across south Wales
and the south-west which implements apprenticeships in both areas.
It found the system much easier to get into in the south-west
of England. The Learning and Skills Council is a much more visible
point of entry into the system than the DCELLS (Department for
Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills) might be in
the Welsh Assembly Government. Once into the system, using a private
sector training provider, they found that the Welsh system worked
a little more flexibly and was a little more encouraging, but
it was not until the company was deeply into that process that
it understood the differences. There is a degree of improvement
in the communication that could be seen.
Q997 Mr Martyn Jones: In addition,
do your members have problems when they are working with institutions
within Wales relating to the differences between establishments?
I am particularly thinking of north-east Wales where we have our
own colleges just across the border.
Mr Rosser: I think the appetite
and enthusiasm with which certainly further education colleges
work with business is quite varied. There are some very good colleges
which are very business focused, and I think you have two of them
in north Wales, Glyndwr and Deeside.
Q998 Mr Martyn Jones: One of which
is now a university.
Mr Rosser: That is not always
replicated elsewhere within further education in Wales. I think
higher education institutions have made much more progress along
that agenda of working with business. The relative under-funding
of higher education in Wales limits the degree to which some of
those institutions can invest in working with businesses and that
is something we are quite keen to see addressed. Shortly, I think
Wales will be the only one of the four administrations in the
UK which is not offering, for example, R&D innovation vouchers
to companies to use with higher education institutions and that
would be a shame.
Q999 Mr Martyn Jones: You suggest
the UK Government could do more to incorporate the needs of Welsh
businesses in its policy development. How do you think that is
Mr Rosser: Clearly the Assembly
Government has increased requirements now to consult with business
under the new Government of Wales Act that was passed recently
and we look forward to seeing that work well both in spirit as
well as the letter of the regulation. It is working better in
some areas than others. We are currently involved with the Welsh
Assembly Government at a very early stage in helping their thinking
on a fees or contribution policy towards post-19 education. That
method of working is to be welcomed. It is quite resource intensive
both on us as well as the Assembly Government. We would like to
see more of that. It does not apply in some areas and some regulations
where there is much more "brief the business community once
we have taken the decision". Again, we come back to the current
Impact Assessment Policy that the Assembly Government is considering
and highlight the importance of that to understanding the consequences
of different policies on business and the costs and where they
Mr Jenkins: I would like to say
that in terms of companies that we have spoken to, they have said
they would appreciate more understanding of what happens post-devolution.
In some ways, the Welsh Assembly Government has developed the
conventional consultation model which is appreciated in terms
of, "We will talk to you as and when the process goes on",
but businesses need certainty, an understanding of what will happen
after key decisions are made. There is inevitably going to be
this tension, but I think companies would appreciate some understanding
of what will happen after the decision has been made, what kind
of issues are likely to change, if not the actual changes themselves
then where they need to be looking, where they need to be considering.
How they need to plan what I call their business models, is often
or not three or four years in advance in terms of building regs
they are buying plots of land and if building regs are going to
be devolved, what is the impact of that and they do not know.