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MPA General Assembly 2015

MPA General Assembly 2015

This year’s event firmly places the spotlight on Europe, devolution, the economy and infrastructure

THE sixth annual Mineral Products Association (MPA) Members’ General Assembly took place on Wednesday 10 June at Church House, Westminster, with the theme ‘Understanding Regime Change’. The successful event attracted more than 130 high-level delegates from over 60 MPA producer and associate member companies to discuss the crucial issues of the moment affecting the industry.

Simon Jack, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme business correspondent, hosted the event, which featured an interactive business panel session as well as several nationally important speakers from King’s College London, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).


The Assembly was followed by the MPA’s Parliamentary Reception, hosted by Christopher Chope MP. Joining Mr Chope were speakers Peter Unwin, chief executive officer of the Whitehall & Industry Group, and Isabel Oakeshott, political journalist and commentator and former political editor of the Sunday Times.

Commenting on the event, Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the MPA, said: ‘Our General Assembly addressed some of the big issues of the moment and provided a valuable insight into our relationship with Europe, our Union, our economy and our infrastructure.

‘The situation has improved significantly for our industry: demand and pent-up demand is good for housing, infrastructure and, in particular, energy and transport, but the new Government must continue to play its part in helping deliver on all these forms of development.

‘Devolution is here to stay,’ continued Mr Jackson, ‘however, we will encourage awareness to understand cross-border issues and the need to see the bigger picture and have a strategic view. We must also consider our future relationship with Europe.

‘As recovery has given way to growth, supply strains are now the new issue, including skills, drivers, technical expertise and, of course, materials. A resilient, steady and adequate supply of materials is essential and we are seeing this return to the planning agenda after years of under-replenishment of reserves.

‘So, looking to the future, the MPA 2025 process has begun. There is much to think about in an era where access to and use of resources will only increase. I believe availability and use of natural resources will be the defining feature of the next 25 years, and the next 10 will be critical in determining the way ahead.

‘We need to understand clearly where we are in terms of both performance and perception. We need to have a shared idea of where we want to be and how we want to be perceived in 10 years’ time, and agree how we are to get there. We don’t want government to think it can drive our strategy; we do need government to accept and recognize we can,’ said Mr Jackson.

Prof. Vernon Bogdanor from King’s College London began the main proceedings with a presentation that examined ‘England, Scotland and the European Union’. He looked at the devolution of legislative powers and services in the UK and in England, including such politically sensitive areas as the NHS.

Prof. Bagdanor highlighted that people are often not always eager to engage with local government and he questioned whether devolution in England could really succeed without significant devolution of tax-raising powers and the creation of a written constitution.
Andy Bagnall, director of campaigns with the CBI, followed with an exploration of the ‘UK Relationship with the EU’, with particular emphasis on the importance of the EU to UK businesses. He explained that the CBI’s position is that it wants to stay in, but with a reformed EU relationship.

Mr Bagnall identified a number of benefits which, he said, outweighed the negatives, such as: access to a single market; common rules, eg on product compliance; free movement of goods for business; and the opportunity for trade deals which have EU backing. ‘Many of these benefits are taken for granted,’ he said.

Changes which the CBI does want to see introduced include: a more open single market; more chances to capitalize on digital developments, such as e-commerce; a more outward-looking and competitive EU; and a better balance between member states and the EU institutions.

The panel session speakers – Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, and Graham Hacche, editor of World Economy, NIESR Economic Review – focused on the ‘Economic & Fiscal Outlook’. Mr Johnson highlighted the issues government would have to address to achieve a balanced budget, notably the very sharp cuts which will be required in non-protected departmental budgets, whilst Mr Hacche presented on key global economic trends and challenges which would inevitably impact on the UK, highlighting the need for policies to stimulate global economic growth, notably to improve recent poor performance on productivity.

In the final presentation of the Assembly, Sir John Armitt CBE, senior vice-president of the Institution of Civil Engineers and a board member of Transport for London, provided an insight into ‘Effective Infrastructure Delivery’. Sir John, who has proposed the establishment of a National Infrastructure Commission to ensure better management and delivery of infrastructure programmes, highlighted the need for more consistent government policy in sectors such as energy to attract long-term private funding in infrastructure.
The 2015 General Assembly also saw the launch of the third edition of the MPA’s ‘Facts at a Glance’ publication, the Association’s latest Mineral Products Today magazine, as well as a new MPA Restoration Guarantee Fund leaflet.


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