CBI president tells Government to ‘just get on with it’ on infrastructure spending

Paul Dreschler, president of the CBI, is interviewed by Bernard GinnsPaul Dreschler, president of the CBI, is interviewed by Bernard Ginns
Paul Dreschler, president of the CBI, is interviewed by Bernard Ginns
THE NEW president of the Confederation of British Industry has urged the Government to “just get on with it” and deliver vital infrastructure projects.

In one of his first interviews since being appointed, Paul Drechsler also said Britain has the worst level of social mobility in the developed world and every child should have an equal opportunity to succeed.

And he said there is a strong business case to stay in the European Union, but called for reforms to make the continent more competitive.

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The big-hitting businessman is chairman of the Liverpool-based Bibby Line Group and the former chief executive of construction firm Wates.

Asked what message he had for the Government about investment in transport infrastructure in the North of England, Mr Drechsler told The Yorkshire Post: “At the heart of the best opportunities for people is a strong economy. A strong economy is incredibly dependent on competitive infrastructure.

“We have to be able to get people and products around the country at the lowest unit cost for us to be able to compete internationally. Infrastructure is a vital ingredient to that.

“We need to get on with the major infrastructure projects that are long overdue in this country and importantly we need to recognise that many of them are projects that will benefit the next generation.

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“We might not see the benefits immediately but some of these infrastructure projects are about how do we ensure in 10 years’ time or 15 years’ time that the next generation have as good an opportunity to succeed nationally and globally with their businesses through competitive infrastructure. Just get on with it.”

Last month, around 70 business leaders signed an open letter in The Yorkshire Post challenging Chancellor George Osborne to honour pre-election promises to upgrade the region’s railways.

Mr Drechsler made the comments during a visit to Leeds to attend a Teach First conference, the educational charity he chairs. He is also chairman of the National Skills Funding Agency and a board member of Business in the Community.

He said social mobility in Britain is “substantially worse than any other country in the developed world”, arguing than children from poor backgrounds barely have a one in ten chance of escaping poverty and many begin to get left behind their wealthier peers by the end of primary school.

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Mr Dreschler said: “I’m particularly interested in this because I start from that basis that surely every child, no matter what their background, should have equal opportunity.

“Therefore if you want to change the issue of social mobility the most powerful way to change it is through education because that’s where you give children the possibility of not only academic achievement but also the skills and the characteristics that will let them succeed in life.”

He said companies can help young people with employability skills.

Fantastic opportunity with ICI

The 26th president of the CBI, Paul Drechsler, is very familiar with the charms of God’s Own Country.

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The Irishman used to live in Swainby, a village in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire. His local pub was the Miners Arms.

He said: “My first 10 years were as a production engineer on ICI on Teesside. I had a fantastic opportunity to work with great people and see a lot of change in the late 70s and 80s and in fact my best friends today are all people that I met during the early years with ICI in the North East.”

Mr Dreschler progressed through the ranks and held senior positions in Brazil, the USA and the Netherlands and served as a main board director at ICI from 1998 to 2003.

He went on to becomes chief executive of the family-owned Wates Group.

In February, he was honoured by the Queen with a CBE for services to the construction industry.

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