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MPs "shocked" at Govt's lack of engineering advice

The Government’s plans to build a new generation of nuclear power plants could be seriously impacted by the lack of engineering experience in the civil service, a group of MPs have warned.

A report by the cross-party House of Commons Universities, Innovation and Skills Committee has recommended the creation of a chief engineer role in Government to raise the status of the profession within Whitehall. It also called for more trained and experienced engineers at all levels of the civil service.

The MPs said they were “shocked” to learn that engineering advice was nonexistent, or barely featured, in the formulation of key policies including eco-towns, renewable energy and large IT projects.

The report recommended a “master roadmap” be created to give a clear and detailed plan for delivering the next generation of nuclear power stations.

Chairman Phil Willis said: “The Government’s recent enthusiasm for nuclear power has raised important questions about the UK’s capacity to deliver a new generation of nuclear power stations. We discovered that there are significant skills shortages, which could affect plans to bring new plants online by 2020.

“We argue that there should be a master roadmap for all major engineering projects, including nuclear new build.”

He added: “Government, in key policy areas of several departments, does not have sufficient in-house engineering expertise to act as an intelligent customer and engineering advice is frequently not sought early enough during policy formulation.”

The report suggested that in recruiting more engineers into the civil service, the Government should “distribute them more widely and provide real opportunities in career progression while… also strengthening links between the public and private sector through secondments”.