‘Construction has suffered more than any other industry during the recession and its revival is crucial to Britain’s overall economic recovery. It must continue to provide the jobs and opportunities that will underpin the economic growth that Britain needs’
To the readers of Building magazine.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to Building’s Charter 284.
The construction industry in the UK is a vital business sector. It employs 2.1 million people in more than a quarter of a million firms, and is now the second largest in the EU.
The sector contributes 8.2% of the nation’s GDP, and many of its leading players – architects, civil engineers, contractors and suppliers – are world leaders. As a sector it has international reach, with British designers, contractors and suppliers at the heart of some of the world’s most iconic projects.
It has also suffered more than any other industry during the recession and its revival is crucial to Britain’s overall economic recovery. It must continue to provide the jobs and opportunities that will underpin the economic growth that Britain needs.
So let me set out how a Conservative government would help support the industry.
First, a Conservative government would stop Labour’s jobs tax. This tax on jobs will undermine the recovery. This is why Conservatives will raise the secondary threshold at which employers start paying National Insurance contributions, reducing the cost of Labour’s tax rise on employers by more than half. This decision has been supported by leading businessmen within the construction sector, including the bosses of JCB, Berkeley Homes and Aggregates Industries.
Second, we will cut red tape and have fewer regulators. We will achieve this by creating a “one in – one out” requirement whereby any new regulation must include cuts in old laws which, together, produce a net 5% reduction in the total regulatory burden. This will be enforced by a Star Chamber, chaired by the business secretary, Ken Clarke.
We also need fewer, cheaper and smaller regulators so we will apply a “sunset clause” to all regulators and they will be assessed in terms of their duties, size and functions during the first term of a Conservative government.
Third, and because all businesses know that revenue is the best form of investment, we will open up the procurement process both in terms of transparency and innovation.
We have committed to publishing all contracts online, in full. We would also end the overly prescriptive detail of every contract, and instead look to the industry to find solutions. These two approaches will cut both the wasteful spending on badly negotiated contracts and put innovation at the heart of the procurement process.
Finally, this sector must continue to find the skilled workers that it needs. This is why Conservatives will make it easier for companies to run apprenticeships by instituting direct payments to employers, simplifying the inspection regime and reducing paperwork. We will offer a major boost by injecting £775m of support for apprentices of all ages, to be delivered through lifelong learning accounts.
Students from outside the UK now make up more than 70% of all engineering and technology postgraduates, and India alone produces more than 170,000 engineering students every year. This is why the Conservatives will attract more engineering students by investing £20m to provide more than a thousand more scholarships for new university places for industry apprentices every year.
Conservatives have the energy, vision and ideas to help the construction industry to get back on its feet so that together, we can get the economy moving. We will set out a long-term strategy and not rely on short-term fixes. We must attract more apprentices and produce more graduates, cut the red tape, open up the procurement process and simplify the tax regime.
We still have some tough times ahead of us, but together we can rebuild this important industry.
David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party