Industry reacts to Queen’s Speech

Following yesterday’s (21st June) Queen’s Speech, which outlined the Government’s priorities for the next two years, the industry was quick to comment on the event. It was clear that the Immigration Bill was top of the agenda for most, with post Brexit immigration into Britain a cause for concern.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “In terms of today’s Queen’s Speech and the focus of British business, all eyes are on theImmigration Bill. As suspected, we now know that the Bill will end the free movement of people but that begs the question: what will replace

it? The Government has not set out what our post-Brexit immigration system will look like but it is crucial that key strategic industries, such as construction, are able to draw upon sufficient numbers of EU workers. EU tradespeople have come to play a crucial part in plugging the industry’s chronic skills shortages and if the ability to employ non-UK workers is curtailed, the Government’s housing and infrastructure plans will be no more than a pipe dream.”

Berry continued: “Already, we’re starting to see a dramatic drop off in immigration from the kinds of countries that have typically supplied the construction sector with skilled talent. Statistics released today by the Oxford University’s Migration Observatory show a 35% fall in the number of national insurance numbers being issued to nationals from the ‘EU8’ countries that joined the EU in 2003. A lack of certainty over what rights EU citizens will have in the country post-Brexit will undoubtedly be a factor behind this decline. Given the ongoing need to recruit from abroad, we need a clear message from the Government that non-UK skilled workers are welcome now, and will be welcome come what May.”

Berry concluded: “The sector stands ready to work with MPs to shape the Immigration Bill into something that serves the economy and provides vital human resource to British business. The construction industry is also ready to significantly upscale the training and recruitment of UK construction workers so we welcome the recommitment to a proper industrial strategy and high skilled learning. In the longer term, being able to train more of our own workforce is without question part of the solution to our enduring skills deficit. Nevertheless, the Government must be pragmatic and introduce an immigration flexible system that allows skilled EU nationals to work in the UK with relative ease.”

John Newcomb, Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) managing director, said: “The Queen’s Speech reflects the Government’s pre-occupation with the complex negotiations to leave the European Union but we do welcome the very encouraging noises today on housing and industrial policy, which will both help grow the economy, improve living standards and increase productivity”.

“We welcome the clear statement in the Queen’s Speech that proposals will be brought forward to help ensure more homes are built. The Government has acknowledged that not enough homes are being built and that we need to build more of the right homes in the right places, and diversify who builds homes. Our understanding is that the Housing White Paper does not now require further legislation, so we would urge the Government to implement it as quickly as possible”.

“The BMF also welcomes the Government’s commitment to implementing the Industrial Strategy and the new Trade and Customs Bills which will enable our members to trade confidently and continue with their planned investments. The BMF favours an Industrial Strategy that showcases the construction industry, based on a clearly defined, well-articulated mission to give it purpose, drive and direction. A resilient, functioning and enduring supply chain must be a core component if the Strategy is to succeed”.

“Our latest Builders Merchant Building Index shows that merchants experienced strong growth in the first quarter of 2017, with sales up 5.9% compared to the same time last year. This shows the vital role of builders, plumbers and timber merchants in delivering economic growth. Housing is not built, nor are homes repaired, extended or adapted, without the materials and products that BMF members deliver. We look forward to working with new ministers in the coming months”.

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UK-GBC decided to focus more on the Clean Growth Plan. She said: “This Queen’s Speech highlighted the importance of certainty for businesses and reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. The Clean Growth Plan must deliver this certainty and drive action on reducing carbon emissions. With Brexit top of the agenda, the Great Repeal Bill should not see a watering down of the environmental protections and climate policies we enjoy today as EU members.

“We welcome the commitment to building the homes the country badly needs and the focus on modern methods of construction – which can deliver high-quality homes at the scale required. Sustainable construction has the potential to create high-skilled jobs and position the UK as a leader in low-carbon technology, so it must be placed at the heart of our Industrial Strategy.”