Dear Members and Friends,

A busy week on a number of fronts whilst the competition to be the UK’s next PM twisted and turned almost as much as England teams’ fortunes and the horse-trading going on in Brussels.

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Tuesday saw Serco’s CEO Rupert Soames discuss the state of UK government procurement. Alongside Brexit, it is the challenges in HMG’s procurement and project delivery processes that stand out as the main issue for much of the membership, whether in defence, health, transport or energy. With major companies seeking fair and reliable returns on capital that they can deploy around the world, it’s critical for the UK to get the right balance between taxpayer value for money and competitive returns for the private sector. We have had excellent engagement on this key subject with the Cabinet Office, relevant departments and leading private sector players, to which Rupert’s key points added a valuable contribution. He spoke at length about the key differences between private and public sector procurement, stressing the importance of understanding the differing requirements of each. Of especial importance for the public sector is the requirement for transparency and accountability. He praised the initiative behind the new outsourcing playbook but warned that unless both sides were using it properly, it would remain simply an initiative. If he could make just one change to the current system, Rupert said that he would enable contracts to be renegotiated after three years, to ensure that specifications could evolve in line with the project in question.

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All of which made for a natural lead into the instructive talk on Wednesday given by Michèle Dix about a future major project, Crossrail 2. Michèle is its impressive CEO. Crossrail 2 is the proposed North/South sister to the almost-finished West/East Crossrail. It’s a £30 billion scheme which will include 70 kilometres of new tunnels and 12 new stations. Michèle put forward a very impressive cogent case for Crossrail 2. Since 1997, London has seen a 47% increase in jobs but there has only been a 16% increase in housing. On average, there is a 10% increase in people travelling in and out of London each year and therefore a pressing need for extra capacity. The project should bring £150 billion to the UK economy and create £5 billion of work for SMEs. The government wants the project to be made more affordable and, as agreed by Boris when he was Mayor, London will pay for 50%. There was a very lively debate around technology, cost and when will Crossrail be complete but overall it was a persuasive case made by a compelling advocate.

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On Wednesday, BEI Chief Operating Officer, Derrick Sanyahumbi gave a keynote presentation on the State of Play in Africa, setting the scene for the 4th BCLP Africa Forum. Whilst acknowledging that African continent was not homogenous, he pointed to a growing youth population, a rising middle class and improving governance structures as positive indicators. In addition, with the expectation that by 2050 a quarter of the world’s consumers will live in Africa, it is an investment destination that UK plc cannot miss out on. He also highlighted the many challenges investors face, including corruption, weak regulatory, legal, and procurement structures; but with careful navigation and a long-term investment consideration, he believes expected returns on investments make Africa a viable investment destination.

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Tuesday saw our associated research group, the British Foreign Policy Group, co-host in Parliament with the British Council a meeting of the UK Soft Power Group, for which it acts as coordinator. The group brings together major UK organisations which contribute to the UK’s soft power. Working alongside partners in government, it compares perspectives and considers opportunities in a changing world. Major UK bodies represented on Tuesday included the Football Association, Universities UK, British Standards Institution, Core Cities, Tate, Southbank Centre, Edinburgh International Festival, City of London Corporation, as well as the Scottish Government. The event was a welcome opportunity to re-emphasise the importance of supporting the diversity, values and independence underpinning the vitality of the UK’s soft power internationally, and the Group will build on this over coming months, including an Autumn meeting in Dundee at the V&A.

Finally, the June edition of Perspectives, our international e-magazine is worth pointing you to. The D Group’s Ed Thicknesse has written a thought provoking piece on challenges faced by China. Timely given the subsequent ructions in and around Hong Kong. Tom Cargill interviews Fabian Hamilton, Labour’s shadow minister for peace and disarmament, giving a very different take on the international scene.

Best wishes,

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Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International


Event Highlights:

Tuesday 9th July 2019 – The D Group
Lunch with Alexandre Fasel, the Ambassador of Switzerland to the UK  
Ambassador Alexandre Fasel, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United Kingdom

Tuesday 16th July 2019 – BEI
The use of UK aid in enhancing mutual prosperity
Independent Commission for Aid Impact

Tuesday 16th July 2019 – The D Group
Dinner with Philip New, CEO, Catapult
Philip New, CEO, Energy Systems Catapult