Updated: New business secretary Greg Clark tells Building prospects for construction ‘remain good’
New business and energy secretary Greg Clark has told Building construction has good prospects in the future despite industry fears over Brexit.
Clark made the comments at an industry event at the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday night, before the results of today’s reshuffle were known, placing him in charge of a newly-merged business, energy and industrial strategy department, including industrial strategy for construction.
Clark was previously communities secretary under David Cameron’s government.
Building bosses are worried about a potential recession with finance house Experian warning the industry is set to enter negative territory for the rest of the year while a survey last month of construction buyers found confidence about upcoming work at its lowest level for seven years.
But Clark told Building: “If you look at the fundamentals, I think, the prospects for the building industry remain good.”
Housebuilders and developers have borne the brunt of the fallout from the vote with quoted firms’ share prices taking a double digit hit, but Clark, speaking at the Federation of Master Builders 75th anniversary party at the House of Lords, said: “The fundamentals are that the country needs to build more homes and anyone in the sector that is in the business of building homes is supplying that need.”
He added: “If you look at the balance sheets of the housebuilders compared to where we were in 2009 and 2010 it’s a transformed situation.
“Part of the problems that we had in the volume of housebuilding at the beginning of the decade was how weak the balance sheets were and they took some time to recover.”
Clark said the government was committed to investing £20bn into housing which he said should be “a source of confidence” for the industry.
And he added: “Housing continues to be centre stage for the government in terms of its manifesto commitments and Theresa May was elected on the same manifesto as David Cameron was.”
Clark, who was a Remainer, also said the vote to leave the EU would enhance the regions. “I think there is big opportunity for the northern powerhouse, Midlands engine and other areas.
“If we are changing our arrangements with Europe and decentralising in effect, my view is that those powers and those funds shouldn’t stay in London, Westminster and Whitehall.”
Clark also said the government was committed to infrastructure spending and that HS2 “is very important” to Birmingham and northern cities.