We must improve the quality of homes built in the UK - Tory MP Jo Churchill

Posted On: 
6th December 2017

Refining the quality of homes built in the UK would bolster productivity, skills and the wellbeing of people across the country, argues Conservative MP Jo Churchill.

“Your biggest purchase in your life has the least protection,” began Tory MP Jo Churchill, the chair of the All Parliamentary Party Group for excellence in the built environment. “If somebody told you that a 92% failure rate was what you would expect from your car, you wouldn’t buy it.”

Ms Churchill was speaking at the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) parliamentary reception in the Palace of Westminster on Monday evening, hosted by her Conservative colleague, Eddie Hughes. Delivering the keynote address, the MP for Bury St Edmunds said it is “each and every person’s job” within the construction industry to work towards improving the quality of homes that are built.

In doing so, she continued, it would induce several consequences of benefit to the UK economy; boosting productivity, raising skills levels in the construction industry and improve the wellbeing of people up and down the country.

“We need to make to make sure that we are protecting those homes. That’s what you produce at the end of the day; people’s homes, their biggest and their most special purchase,” she said.

Ms Churchill invited attendees at the reception, which included key representatives from the construction industry alongside MPs from across the political spectrum, to contribute to her APPG’s new inquiry into creating an ombudsman for housing.

Rebecca Thompson, the 114th and second ever woman president of the CIOB, also focussed much of her speech on issues surrounding ethics, quality and safety in the construction sector. She argued the industry has a responsibility to build safe homes,  but that it is failing to consistently deliver the right standards of quality in what it creates and manages.

In tune with Ms Churchill, Ms Thompson said improvements in productivity within the construction sector would have wide-ranging benefits for the UK economy.  “As one tenth of the UK’s GDP is generated by construction, if we improve our own productivity, we boost the productivity of the whole economy. What’s more, construction itself is a productivity multiplier,” she said.

“So, better buildings and infrastructure help all other parts of the economy to work more effectively. What matters most is they make people happier, healthier and safer.”

And she called for ethical standards to be improved. “To be a professional is to act not just in your own interests, not just in the interests of your client, but also in the interests of the broader public. And yet, as we know, there’s been too much unethical behaviour in the industry.

“There are too many incidents of shoddy workmanship, poor processes, cutting corners, deceptive practices, and when somebody in our business behaves unethically, we all suffer.”

In June, Ms Thompson announced a commission of former presidents of the CIOB to investigate the issues of quality in construction and what needs to be done to improve it. “It’s important we take this opportunity to better ourselves, and our industry, and showcase the value of being professional,” she concluded.

Tory MP Eddie Hughes, a long-term member of the CIOB, spoke of how the institute was “essential” in his transition from a career as a civil engineer to working in construction. “Not only does it give you the chance to formalise what you’ve learnt and get some accreditation for that. But professional development in our industry is essential,” he said.

“Obviously, technology and legislation is changing all of the time. The institute gives members the opportunity to keep in touch with those changes in a very easily accessible way.

“It gives us a community so we can speak to like-minded people, who are in tune with what’s happening in the construction industry, and who are as keen to ensure a quality product as the people in this room are.”

Turning to the work of the CIOB, which was founded in 1834, Mr Hughes expressed his delight that the institute was reaching out to ex-service personnel with transferable skills to work in the sector. He also argued that CIOB accreditation will become an “international badge” once the UK has left the EU.

“I understand that we have members in 100 countries. That is quite a trading base for us to work from,” he said of the CIOB’s worldwide connectivity.

And as a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Mr Hughes said he will be working to champion more women working in construction at all levels in the future.

Among the packed audience in the Houses of Parliament was Chi Onwurah, shadow minister for industrial strategy, and Conservative MP Gillian Keegan.