Here, Professional Builder rounds up some of the reactions from across the industry to the Queen’s speech.
Randeesh Sandhu, CEO of Urban Exposure
“Almost two weeks on from the dawn of an unexpected hung Parliament, we are still not much clearer on the political landscape at Westminster or the impact this will have on the UK economy. Nonetheless, today’s Queen’s Speech shows how the minority Government’s policy agenda has been altered by the outcome of the General Election and recent terror events, with the delivery of Brexit clearly at the forefront.
“From a property perspective it was disappointing to see a lack of policy directly addressing the sector. There are still a number of hurdles holding ambitious builders back and we would like to see the Government commit to addressing these, including helping smaller developers access public land and appropriate finance.
“The market remains in good shape fundamentally, with the UK still not building enough homes to meet growing demand and the Bank of England Governor clearly signalling yesterday that interest rates will remain lower for longer. However, we believe it is essential that further steps are taken by the Government, in partnership with local authorities and the finance community, to deliver the new homes the UK needs.”
Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s UK Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction comments on the high speed rail commitment made during the Queen’s Speech. He said:
“This is a critical investment that will enable Britain to build the infrastructure needed to rebalance our country’s economic wealth.
“Today’s announcement connects more of our major cities to a high speed rail network, and takes us a step closer to creating a Northern Powerhouse.
“The commitment recognises the dismal state of links between the heart of the UK and its Northern cities today. This should finally turn the tide and help the North regain its historic prominence in the UK economy.
“Government, local political and business leaders now need to come together and develop the connectivity that HS2 offers into an overall vision for the development of the North.
“The objective is clear – a vibrant, successful and integrated northern economy that our children will be proud to inherit. Today’s announcement brings us an important step closer to that.”
The Government’s Immigration Bill must ensure that British business has access to sufficient levels of EU workers or major construction projects will grind to a halt, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said in response to the Queen’s Speech.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “In terms of today’s Queen’s Speech and the focus of British business, all eyes are on the Immigration 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 gap 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 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 2004.
“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.”
Responding to the Queen’s Speech, RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said:
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to a new modern Industrial Strategy. Wind, wave and tidal energy are new industries which are already creating highly-skilled, high-paid jobs, exporting around the world. Renewables can and should be the engine room of the Government’s flagship Industrial Strategy, driving our low-carbon economy.
“The need to reduce energy bills for consumers was also rightly highlighted in the Queen’s Speech. Renewable energy technologies are making record-breaking cost reductions, and clean energy tariffs are now competing with traditional low-cost tariffs to provide consumers with lower bills – we should continue this trend.
“It was important that the Government reaffirmed its strong support for action on climate change, including the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
“President Trump’s decision to turn his back on this has been greeted with bafflement and incomprehension in the US energy sector, as the global renewable energy market is worth $290 billion a year. The UK Government is showing leadership on energy policy and environmental issues which matter to the majority of the British public”.
Queen’s speech touches on skills and modern industrial strategy
During the state opening of Parliament, the Queen set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the next two parliamentary years.
The Government has pledged a number of bills to prepare the country ahead of its withdrawal from the EU such as the Repeal Bill, the Immigration Bill, the Trade Bill and the Customs Bill. The Queen mentioned that the Government remained committed to pursuing a modern industrial strategy, reforming technical education to invest in a highly-skilled workforce, and building more new homes.
The National Federation of Builders (NFB) appreciates the Government’s focus on technical education, the industrial strategy and house building. However, the NFB would have welcomed greater detail on these issues, while awaiting the Government’s response to public consultations on both the Industrial Strategy and the Housing White Paper.
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said:” We are facing significant challenges in recruiting skilled construction workers and building the homes this country needs. Although the Government has acknowledged their significance in the Queen’s Speech, what the industry needs is clear guidance from a cohesive Government.
“We are eagerly waiting for the Government to deliver its responses to consultations on the industrial strategy and the housing white paper, hoping they will produce deliverable plans to address the housing crisis and build the skilled workforce of tomorrow that we need today.”
Reacting to today’s Queen’s Speech to Parliament that set out the Government’s legislative programme for the next two years, John Newcomb, 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”.