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Sat, 4 February 2023

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Ideal Queen’s Speech: the Federation of Master Builders sets out its agenda

Ideal Queen’s Speech: the Federation of Master Builders sets out its agenda

Federation of Master Builders

3 min read Partner content

The Federation of Master Builders assesses how next week’s Queen’s Speech will affect the construction industry.

Next week’s Queen’s Speech promises to be a significant one for small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms like the ones we represent.

The piece of legislation we’re most eagerly anticipating is the Apprenticeship Bill which will set out how the Government plans to reach its target of creating three million apprenticeships over the next five years. As the construction industry accounts for around 7% of GDP, it means our sector should conceivably be delivering 210,000 of these apprenticeships – or 42,000 a year which is a big ask. At the end of the last Parliament, the government announced a new voucher model for apprenticeship funding and we’re keen to make sure this is suitable for small construction firms – if it’s not developed with our members in mind, it could threaten their desire or ability to train apprentices.

The much-touted Housing Bill will not only drive forward the Government’s new ‘Right to Buy’ policy, but is also likely to include legislation on the brownfield proposals contained within the 2015 Conservative manifesto. The Government has committed to creating a Brownfield Fund to unlock homes on brownfield land for additional housing. The Government have also set themselves a target to ensure 90% of suitable brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020.

The new Secretary of State for Business Sajid Javid MP confirmed this week that the Government would be bringing forward legislation to tackle late payment through an Enterprise Bill. Its aim is to build on the Small Business and Enterprise Bill seen in the last Parliament. Late payment has plagued the construction industry for decades and it’s a major barrier to small and micro firms forming part of the supply chain for public sector contracts – if we can solve the problem of late payment, we will also open up public sector construction to thousands of construction SMEs. As two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by micro-firms, this will have untold benefits for local jobs and growth. Javid has also hinted at the idea of widening the powers for representative bodies to act on behalf of their members to challenge grossly unfair payment terms. We eagerly await further details on this as it’s difficult for small firms to openly highlight poor payment terms by the larger firms they work for without fear of biting the hand that feeds.

The Bill which will no doubt be conspicuous by its absence is one which will look to retrofit our existing homes. The Government has a legally binding ambition to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Our existing housing stock is responsible for 27% of the UK’s total carbon emissions and as 85% of these homes will still be standing in 25 years’ time, we must prioritise this issue. Regardless of the carbon reduction benefits of improving our homes, at a time when we face a housing crisis, it makes sense to invest in, and maximise the benefit of, the homes we already have – while also ensuring we build as many new homes as possible.

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