Ex-building regulations minister heads working group as Building launches campaign to get industry best deal
Lord Stunell is leading a high-level review into the impact of Brexit on the construction industry, it has emerged, as Building launched a campaign to secure a fair deal for the sector in Brexit negotiations.
Stunell, a Liberal Democrat peer and former building regulations minister, revealed this week that his review is one of several working groups being led by members of the House of Lords to scrutinise the impact of Brexit on key sectors of the economy.
These working groups aim to hold the government to account over the terms of its Brexit negotiations, ahead of it triggering the Article 50 process that will start the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU).
Stunell said: “We need to look at what the Lords should say when challenging ministers, and have hard facts to support those views. We are trying to look at particular sections of the economy and have actual engagement with them, to determine how much is real concern, how much is hand-wringing, and what needs to be done to improve the situation.”
Stunell’s comments came as Building launched Building a Better Brexit this week, a campaign to secure terms in Brexit negotiations that will safeguard a sector that contributes around 6.5% of GDP, and provide a policy environment that enables the growth needed to deliver the UK’s built environment priorities, including new infrastructure and housing. The first stage of the campaign will inform Stunell’s review (see right for how to have your say).
Stunell said the Lords’ scrutiny would be significant because he was “practically sure” the government was not studying the impact of Brexit on the sector to “this level”.
He added: “If you want a meeting [with the government] to talk about Brexit, there’s a frustration in the industry that people aren’t being welcomed.”
However, he said the construction sector needed to seize the chance to influence negotiations while it could. Stunell said: “The industry runs a very real risk of being left out again. If the industry falls silent, then there isn’t any real chance of issues coming to ministers’ attention.”
Responding to the review, and to Building’s campaign, Richard Steer, chairman of consultant Gleeds, said: “The decision to leave the EU is one of the most important events in the history of this country in recent times. Our industry is larger than carmanufacturing and aerospace combined and we must have a voice in the negotiations going forward.
“If the government is really serious about harnessing the construction sector to support a fragile economy post-Brexit then they must listen to our views prior to embarking on any serious negotiations with Europe. We welcome the opportunity to play a part in stimulating that dialogue.”
The news comes amid deepening concern over the detail of the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU. Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, tendered his resignation this week, telling his British colleagues in Brussels they must “challenge muddled thinking”.
Stunell said he had been asked to lead the review last autumn by Lord Newby, Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, because of his background in the sector. As well as being a former building regulations minister, Stunell worked as an architectural assistant before entering politics, and is also a former Building columnist.