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House Building

Volume 491: debated on Tuesday 21 April 2009

9. What recent discussions she has had with representatives of the construction industry on the prospects for house building during the credit crunch. (269451)

The Department has regular dialogue with the industry, both through representative trade bodies and individual companies throughout the supply chain, as well as through participation in round-table meetings, seminars and other forums. The downturn in house building levels has featured regularly in those discussions, as have many other issues facing the industry.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the need to keep people in their jobs, it is essential that we maintain capacity in the construction industry, both in the north-east and across the country, so that when the upturn comes we can get straight down to building the quantity of quality new homes that this country will need?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. She may know that it has long been my view that one of the many mistakes made during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s was not to prepare for the upturn, but to assume that when it came things would just sort themselves out. As a result, the construction industry lost so much capacity and so many skills that it was some 10 years before it recovered. That is why we are determined to provide the kind of help and support now that we hope can substantially shorten that period of recovery.

If the Minister is concerned about the future of the construction industry, what representations did she make to the Chancellor about including a cut in VAT on renovation and rebuild in the Budget tomorrow?

All I can say is that policy conversations between Ministers are best kept between Ministers rather than discussed across the Floor of the House, especially if one hopes that those policy conversations will bear fruit.