DTI shake-up closes door

Exhibition trade bodies are rallying to forge new in-roads into government following a decision to close the Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Business Services Unit.

The unit has acted as the industry's government contact and provided long-term co-ordinated support and sponsorship for both conferences and exhibitions. It will close at the end of the month after a DTI restructure.

The Business Tourism Partnership, of which the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO), Association of Exhibition Contractors (AEC), Association of Exhibition Venues and the Exhibition Venues Association are all members, has championed a failed appeal against the DTI's decision.

"It is disappointing, however, we've not been exiled from the DTI entirely it's just that the route has been made more complex,' said Business Tourism Partnership chairman, Michael Hirst. "It means communication will be much more of a struggle."

Industry bodies were informed of the intended closure in February. The Business Tourism Partnership and the AEO have spent two months lobbying the DTI before a final meeting on 22 April confirmed its intent to close the unit.

AEC project director John Sanders is now spearheading a move toward alternative government departments in an attempt to forge new relationships that can help with issues such as the Working Time Directive. He said: "We're currently awaiting a response from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport."

The DTI has tried to calm fears by suggesting that other divisions will absorb the Business Services Unit's functions.

"Cross cutting teams in business relations will continue to work on behalf of all business on issues such as innovation, skills, influencing regulation and helping to ensure that business is able to take advantage of public procurement opportunities," said a DTI spokeswoman.

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