On Monday [14 October 2019] the Queen addressed parliament to outline the government’s policy priorities. The following announcements address some of the key issues faced by the construction sector.
Building Safety Standards Regulations
It was confirmed that there are plans to “bring forward laws to implement new building safety standards.” New legislation for building standards is welcome but they must contain robust new requirements including details of funding to make buildings safer and the role of the new regulator to oversee this work.
We hope the promise of a New Homes Ombudsman also fits under the bill as it includes making new homes safer, higher quality and provides better consumer protection whilst holding housebuilders to account.
National Infrastructure Strategy
There was also confirmation that government will publish its National Infrastructure Strategy this autumn. It is expected that this will showcase a commitment to economic infrastructure which has the potential to improve growth, deliver investment and develop transport links whilst helping meet decarbonisation targets.
Cross-party support is needed to ensure the plan meets the needs of all the regions in the UK and the CIOB will work with our sister institutions and regionally based bodies to help ensure the built environment is ready to assist in delivering the National Infrastructure Strategy. The industry also needs to see the detail sooner rather than later as the government needs to set out a long-term vision to support this key part of the economy.
We welcome the recognition of and focus on the UK as a global trading nation, with the introduction of the Trade Bill. However, there is still much uncertainty around future customs arrangements and tariffs. Navigating through any new arrangements will undoubtedly take time and the hope is that any new requirements can be introduced in a way which does not slow down the sector.
We are delighted to see that the government is increasing funding for young people wanting to do post-18 education and providing them with more options that offer the right education for each individual. This is intended to enable further education colleges and school sixth forms to strengthen their provision of education and training to support a sector that is a key part of the economy.
We also await clarity on how the skills gap will be addressed as we move towards a digital and innovative led industry in which adult education in particular will need to play a key role given the ending of free movement of individuals.
“My Ministers will continue work to reform the Mental Health Act to improve respect for, and care of, those receiving treatment.”
As the government looks at the current provisions for mental health, it is crucial that they also look at those who are living with poor mental health but able to work and how companies can help prevent mental health difficulties and look after the health and wellbeing of their employees. Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related illnesses and 57% of all working days lost (Health and Safety Executive, 2018) and with low-skilled construction workers being 3.7 times more likely than the national average to commit suicide we believe this is an important focus for government.
The full text of the speech along with breifing notes can be found on the gov.uk web site.