COMMENT

Engineering a voice in government

The son of an engineer, I was brought up to value the contribution the profession makes to the nation and also to be aware of how undervalued and unrecognised that contribution often is. With accountants, and increasingly lawyers, calling most of the shots it is more important than ever the engineering perspective gains credence at the highest levels of planning and decision making. As well as helping to raise the profession's profile, the creation of a chief engineering adviser to government would be a major step in ensuring this happens.

The post was first proposed by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) last year and the idea was raised again with the launch of this year's ICE State of the Nation report. The institution envisions a role in the mould of existing posts such as the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser. The chief engineering adviser would be government's principle source of guidance on engineering issues such as water, flooding, the built environment, transport infrastructure, energy and waste management - with a remit to promote more engineering-led decision making with regards to the nation's infrastructure. The appointment would be non-political, made instead by the Civil Service Commission, and the adviser would not change with the party in government. The need for, and nature of, the post was summed up by ICE president Douglas Oakervee: "A high-level representative to lead the continuous improvement of the UK's infrastructure and overcome the stop-start, short-term fixes of recent years."

Following the initial proposal the matter was raised in the House of Lords but met with disapproval from the government's trade and industry spokesperson Lord Sainsbury. Since then little progress has been made, but with State of the Nation 2004's renewed call for the establishment of the post there is a new opportunity to take things forward. Promoting the creation of a chief engineering adviser is something with which WWT is keen to be involved and for which we hope to engender support from engineers in the water sector


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