Opinion

Vox pop: What should be the first priorities for the new construction minister?

6 September 2016

Brian Berry, chief executive, Federation of Master Builders (FMB)

It’s very good news that that we once again have a construction minister. Jesse Norman has a solid background on the House of Commons Treasury Committee, which should help provide him with a good grounding for his new position.

It is interesting that the new minister will not be looking after skills as part of his portfolio as did his predecessor Nick Boles. Hopefully this will allow him to focus more time and energy on the construction sector.

What is important is that the minister works closely with Gavin Barwell MP, the new housing minister, and Robert Halfon MP, the new skills minister, to tackle the issues that face construction and house building in the round. In the wake of Brexit, cross-departmental communication has never been so important.

Martin Townsend, director of sustainability, BRE Global

It is essential that the British government ensures the continued free movement of people coming to the UK to study and work in science, design and engineering. By doing this, we will continue to attract the highest calibre of industry professional to careers with UK construction companies.

The government now more than ever needs to make national funding available to compensate for the fall in funding previously offered from EU sources.

With many in government focused on Brexit, we also need to ensure that the domestic market isn’t forgotten and ensure we drive an agenda of growth, which embraces new domestic housing and also quality for the consumer.

If there was one thing I could ask our minister, it would be to remember the essential role UK construction plays on a global scale. Let’s not lose sight of just how good we are at what we do and how many countries rely on our unrivalled expertise.

Anthony Arkle, director of government affairs, Skanska UK

Jesse Norman has been appointed at an important time for the industry and it is vital that he acts quickly and decisively. I would like to see him prioritise Brexit-related matters, industrial strategy and green issues.

He needs to listen closely to what industry is saying about what it needs out of Brexit negotiations to be successful in future. In particular, we must ensure the industry gets access to skilled labour from overseas, while providing the right framework for skills to be developed from home-grown talent.

With business, energy and industrial policy together in one department, I would like to see renewed emphasis on the low carbon agenda and climate mitigation policies as they relate to construction.

Andy Hill, chief executive, Hill

The government’s immediate priority is to provide stability and greater certainty for the economy in the wake of Brexit. The minister will have a significant role because construction is a barometer for the wider economy. Major infrastructure and housing projects must continue and the minister should be pushing that agenda.

More widely, we need to drive home the skills agenda to ensure the industry has the capacity to deliver the government’s one million homes target. Apprenticeships are more important than ever, and we need to ensure we are training enough architects, project managers and surveyors to ensure there are no bottlenecks.

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