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Construction leaders want seat on new business council

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CONSTRUCTION LEADERS have reacted furiously to the industry's exclusion from a newly formed panel of business leaders that will advise Prime Minister Gordon Brown on how to keep Britain's economy healthy.

The Construction Products Association (CPA) and the Construction Confederation said they would be writing to Brown, urging him to appoint a senior construction boss to his 15-strong Business Council for Britain.

Brown set up the council last week after taking over from Tony Blair.

It will advise him on enterprise and competitiveness.

Representatives will come from firms including Tesco, Standard Chartered Bank, Glaxo SmithKline, BP, National Grid, Rolls Royce and Amstrad.

'We are extremely concerned that it will contain no representation from construction, ' said the CPA's external affairs director Simon Storer.

'Almost a third of all government investment is construction-related. With a council comprising 15 people you would expect that an industry that accounts for nearly 9% of GDP would be invited to the table.' A Construction Confederation spokesman said that construction bodies would be strongly lobbying the new construction minister Stephen Timms to ask him to raise the matter with the prime minister.

'We need someone to bat for us on this new panel, ' he said.

'It's really disappointing there isn't anyone on it because construction is critical to so many wider issues such as transport and health.' Meanwhile, London business lobby group London First claimed the Business Council for Britain could give the construction industry a major boost because many of its members will lobby strongly for construction of the £15bn Crossrail project in London.

'The chairman Mervyn Davies is known to be an avowed supporter of Crossrail and we believe other members of the council are strong supporters of the project, ' said a spokesman.

New transport secretary Ruth Kelly's experience at the Treasury could be key in negotiating a good funding settlement for the department in the forthcoming spending review, transport lobbyists told NCE.

Kelly is the first female transport minister since Barbara Castle in the 1960s. Her appointment was welcomed as a minister with enough clout to 'fight transport's corner' in the Cabinet.

'She was highly successful as chief secretary to the Treasury and it's a department she understands, ' said Institute of Advanced Motoring director Bert Morris. 'It could be a great advantage having her there.' He added that having former transport secretary Alistair Darling as the new chancellor could also make a crucial difference in negotiations.

A London First spokesman added that Kelly had a good record of working with Gordon Brown.

Politically, transport will be dominated by women. Kelly will be joined Rosie Winterton who will be minister of state for transport, and the new shadow minister is Theresa Villiers.

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