Construction industry leaders this week welcomed the likely abolition of the DTI if Gordon Brown succeeds Tony Blair as prime minister next year.
One of the possibilities thought to be under debate is the creation of a Department for Economic Affairs, which would focus on finance and industry and would result in the Treasury being split up.
Rob Smith, the senior partner at consultant Davis Langdon, said such a department would be the obvious home for the industry. He said: “The Department for Economic Affairs would be the logical place for construction to sit, if it was alongside other industries.”
Graham Watts, the chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, has often argued that it was not appropriate for construction to be included in the DTI’s remit. He said this week that a more holistic approach to the industry was needed.
“If the dismantling of the DTI is what it takes to get construction put back alongside housing, design and planning, then it would be a good thing,” he said.
I don’t care what they call these departments, what we want is a strong voice for the industry
Michael Ankers, CPA
However, Watts believes that Ruth Kelly’s communities department would be the best place for the construction industry to be represented in government. He said: “Clearly, at the moment the Treasury is the most important part of government so I wouldn’t rule out the benefits of being part of a Department for Economic Affairs, but it doesn’t seem right to divorce it from the other aspects of the built environment.”
Michael Ankers, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said the key concern was making sure that construction was taken notice of in government, regardless of its departmental home.
“I don’t care what they call these departments, what we want is a strong voice for the construction industry,” he said.
Gordon Brown is a known sceptic of the DTI, and the Treasury has been far more involved in matters of industry and UK productivity during his 10-year reign as chancellor.