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House Building

Volume 547: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2012

8. What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues and others on the residential construction industry in Wales. (113172)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and others on a range of issues, including the construction industry in Wales. I have written to the Welsh Government offering to facilitate discussions with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government to explore the possible extension of the NewBuy scheme to Wales.

Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the approach to planning and building regulations being adopted by the Labour Welsh Government is having an adverse effect on the construction industry in Wales?

In Wales, an increasingly onerous planning and building regulations system is developing. Both planning and building regulations are key to the development of new housing and, at a time when England is relaxing that regime, the Welsh Assembly Government are making it more oppressive.

I am rather disappointed that there will be no Welsh Grand Committee on Monday; I do not know whether it is to do with alarm clocks or whatever else. There will be plenty of other opportunities for debating such matters on the Floor of the House in due course and that could have been a good first debate.

The construction industry employs 100,000 people in Wales. Will the Minister please make representations so that renovations are not subject to VAT? The problem is that new build is not subject to it but renovations are, and the vast majority of renovations are carried out by small and medium-sized firms.

I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says about the Grand Committee and I agree with him entirely. My information tells me that it is the onerous planning and building regulations regime that is the biggest deterrent to new house building in Wales.

I understand that the Welsh Government and the Treasury are currently discussing the whole issue of the Barnett formula and the housing revenue account subsidy scheme. That has been done away with in England, and never existed in Scotland or Northern Ireland. It cost Wales £73 million last year—money that could have been put to good use repairing council homes. Will he please further these discussions?

The Welsh Assembly Government are doing considerably better in financial terms under this Government than many other spending Departments, and the right hon. Gentleman should take that into account.

Regional pay affects local economies in the poorest regions of Wales. Does the Minister agree that construction workers and construction firms in north-west Wales, in Cemaes bay and Colwyn bay, should be paid the same as those in Torbay and Buckinghamshire, as should teachers in those areas?

Increasingly, Welsh house builders are leaving Wales to build in England, and it is good that firms such as Watkin Jones, which the hon. Gentleman will know, at least are keeping local employees. [Interruption.]

Order. There are far too many noisy private conversations taking place in the Chamber. Let us have a bit of order for Mr David Rutley.