Skip to main content

Construction Industry

Volume 474: debated on Thursday 3 April 2008

2. If he will allocate responsibility for policy on the construction industry to a Minister with sole responsibility for that matter. (198412)

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
(Mr. John Hutton)

My noble Friend Baroness Vadera, the Minister with responsibility for business and competitiveness in my Department, already has responsibility for the construction sector.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Construction is such an important factor, not only in the local economies but in the national economy, that many of the industry’s stakeholders despair at the fact that no single Minister is responsible for construction. The responsibility is spread between a number of Ministers and Departments. Indeed, the Federation of Master Builders is very concerned about skills in case the workers do not continue to operate in this country, and there is a question of design as well. The construction industry deserves a single Minister. When will the Secretary of State deliver on that?

As I just said, there is a Minister in the Government with overall responsibility for the construction sector. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the prospects for the sector look incredibly positive. Major investment is going into Britain’s infrastructure developments for the future, including Crossrail and the M25 extension. There are major opportunities for the sector. I hope that he agrees that the construction industry has prospered in the past 10 years and that it looks set to prosper in the next 10 years.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this week we have been celebrating much in respect of “Constructing Excellence” and the training around it? Most people in the industry are pleased with the current arrangements. However, does he agree that one thing that we should look at carefully is the sustainability of construction, in terms of using the supply chain to draw through good training and apprenticeships and using our trading and subcontracting system to get more measures for sustainable construction and a low-carbon footprint?

I strongly agree. As my hon. Friend will know, the Government are pursuing a number of initiatives in that area, including the zero-carbon housing initiative and others. In the next few years, I hope that we can make significant progress in shifting towards a more sustainable agenda, as he has suggested that we should.

Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to the work done by the national construction college and CITB-ConstructionSkills, both of which have their headquarters and their main training establishments in west Norfolk in my constituency? They employ a large number of people and play a vital role in nurturing our construction and skills base. Can he give a pledge that the levy will stay in place?

The hon. Gentleman asks me to answer a very tough question. I am happy to express my appreciation and respect for the work that is done in his constituency by the CITB, which does an excellent job in sustaining the skills of the construction sector. As he will know, questions to do with the levy are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Universities, Innovation and Skills.