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Construction Parliamentary Update - 11 July

A round up of all the construction news from Westminster over the last seven days

PPP/PFI/FINANCE/PROCUREMENT

English Partnerships announced good results for private sector investment over its 2007/08 programme (Press Release). (10 July)

Labour backbencher Nia Griffith MP presented a 10 minute rule motion to place requirements on companies bidding for public contracts and to prohibit the contracts being transferred overseas. The Bill would require the disclosure of certain information about tax (epolitix, interview with Nia Griffith). (08 July)

The National Audit Office (NAO) held a conference on private finance. Treasury head of PFI policy Gordon McKechnie and Commons public accounts committee chairman Edward Leigh were among the speakers. (07 July)

PLANNING

Communities secretary Hazel Blears published a consultation paper on plans to protect town centres. She said the proposals would give councils more scope to refuse out of town development proposals that threaten the survival of high streets and small shops. The deadline for submissions is 3 October. (Press Release). (10 July)

Boris Johnson published a report entitled ‘Planning a Better London’. He said he intended to improve the lives of Londoners through the planning system. Johnson said that the report outlines how the Mayor will be changing London's strategic planning policies and describes how the Mayor wants to “build stronger partnerships with local communities, London Boroughs and those developing in the capital” (Press Release). (09 July)

The Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University published a report entitled 'Building A Greener Britain-Transforming Britain's Housing Stock' which argued that building firms could stand to tap into a new market worth between £3.5 and £6.5 billion per year if the UK upgraded its existing housing stock to make it greener and more energy efficient (Press Release).

The Welsh Assembly published a summary of responses to their consultation entitled ‘Delivering a Shared Responsibility - Performance Improvement and Community Planning’. (04 July)

CONSTRUCTION

The Office for National Statistics published data on new construction orders. (10 July)

The Government was believed to be interested in a proposal from Stephen Bubb, chair of Futurebuilders and leader of the chief executives body Acevo, for the creation of a £1 billion social investment market that would combine the proposed new social investment bank with the sector infrastructure-building body Capacitybuilders and government loan fund Futurebuilders (ThirdSector). (09 July)

The Construction Confederation warned contractors that they may lose their gross payment status if they make repeated late returns to HMRC under the CIS tax scheme (Press Release). (08 July)

The Government’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure said that companies managing Britain's infrastructure were failing to address the threat posed by employees with links to terror groups, saying that risk identification should be ‘job focussed, not people focussed’ (Financial Times). The CBI also held an event on planning and designing counter-terrorism. (07 July)

The European Commission proposed to change the VAT Directive 2006/112/EC to allow Members States to apply reduced VAT rates. The Federation of Master Builders strongly welcomed the announcement (Press Release). (07 July)

Kier announced 300 job cuts. (07 July)

HOUSING AND REGENERATION

The Housebuilder Barratt Homes cut 1,200 jobs. The announcement means that the construction industry has cut over 5,000 jobs in one week. It said that it expected housbuilding to hit a 50-year low in 2008 (BBC). (10 July)

The IPPR Centre for Cities published a report on building houses in the right places. It called on the Government to deliver on its pledge to build three million new homes by 2020, by tailoring new housing to meet the needs of city economies (Summary). It marked growing worries over whether the Government can adapt its housebuilding programme to the new realities of the market. Housing Minister Caroline Flint appeared on the Today Programme to defend Government policy. (10 July)

Mortgage lender, the Halifax announced that UK house prices fell 2 per cent in June. It said current employment levels and low interest rates meant that values would not collapse (House Price Index). The same day the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) announced its decision to keep interest rates at 5 per cent (Press Release). (10 July)

The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyers said that affordability had improved for first time buyers, but the credit crunch had made it harder to get on the property ladder, observing that a couple in the bottom quarter of income needed a year’s salary up front (Press Release, BBC). (10 July)

The Housing and Regeneration Bill, which would try to increase housing supply through the creation of the Homes and Communities Agency, went through its first and second days of Report Stage in the House of Lords (Hansard, Hansard, Hansard). (07 and 09 July)

Persimmon, Bovis Homes and Redrow became the latest housebuilders to announce significant job cuts, as mortgage lenders such as Bradford and Bingley continued to see their share price fall. A Chambers of Commerce survey predicted recession as concerns over a collateral effect of the housing downturn mounted. (09 July)

Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harmon stood in for Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Questions while Gordon Brown was at the G8 summit in Japan. Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable challenged Harriet Harmon to tackle the housing crisis which he said was “probably the worst in our lifetime” (Press Release). Harmon warned against “talking the economy down” although she did recognise that the situation was “tough” (Hansard). (09 July)

Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Oakshott of Seagrove Bay said that the published indices of house prices over the next three years were “well behind the game”, citing figures on homes sold at auction (Press Release). (09 July)

The Welsh Assembly announced a consultation on meeting housing needs in rural areas. The consultation closes on 10th October. (09 July)

The Welsh Assembly also announced a consultation on the Proposed Second Environment Strategy for Wales Action Plan. The deadline for submissions is 18th August. (09 July)

New Local Government Network director Chris Leslie and Shelter chief executive Adam Sampson were among the speakers at a CBI event on building stronger local communities. (08 July)

The Welsh Proposed affordable housing LCO committee considered the National Assembly for Wales (legislative competence) (housing) order 2008. (08 July)

The Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee considered the draft Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2008 (Hansard). (08 July)

Glasgow invited tenders for the development of the 2014 Commonwealth Games Village (cnplus.co.uk). (07 July)

NHBC launched the Callcutt Customer Satisfaction Task Group which will address data that shows that customer expectations are rising (Press Release). (07 July)

EDUCATION

Dr John Pugh MP, the Member for Southport, initiated an adjournment debate on the progress of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme where he focussed on delivery and value for money. (08 July)

HEALTH

Community Health Partnerships’s 47th Local Improvement Finance Trust Company (LIFTCo) reached its financial close. Assemble Community Partnership is a newly formed LIFTCo that will work in developments in the South East Midlands area over the next few weeks (Press Release). (09 July)

TRANSPORT

Lord Berkeley asked the Government whether they would “reimburse local authorities for the £671 million cost increases on current road schemes managed by local authorities.” (10 July)

Transport minister Rosie Winterton delivered the keynote speech to the New Civil Engineer magazine integrated transport conference. (10 July)

Transport minister Tom Harris visited Mitcham Eastfields station. (10 July)

Transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick spoke at an ABTA business lunch in London. (10 July)

The Department for Transport announced shortlisted applicants to build trains for Thameslink routes worth around £1.4 billion. They are ALSTOM Transport, Bombardier Transportation UK Limited, Hitachi Europe Limited, and Siemens Transportation Systems (Press Release). (10 July)

The Transport Committee took evidence from Unite the Union and BAA on opening the Heathrow terminal. Staff revealed that they had repeatedly warned of problems ahead of the ill fated opening of Heathrow’s new terminal. (09 July)

The Campaign for Safe Road Design published a report on road deaths (BBC). (08 July)

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that approval for a third runway at Heathrow has been delayed until the end of the year due to shortcomings in the public consultation. Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Norman Baker said the news could be “a chink of light” (Press Release).

During transport questions Ruth Kelly was also pressed again on the prospect of high speed trains. (08 July)

The Financial Times reported that Ministers would ‘call in’ plans for a new runway and terminal at Stansted Airport. A public inquiry is expected to take place next year, and the first phase of the £2.5bn project could open in 2015 if successful. (07 July)

The Scottish Executive released an analysis of the report on the Scottish Road Safety Strategy. (07 July)

The Times reported that Boris Johnson was considering ‘watering down’ the congestion charge, adopting facets of the new scheme in Manchester, where the charge applies during busy periods of the day. In an EDM, Labour MP Diane Abbot condemned Mr Johnson’s decision to scrap the £25 charge for higher emitting vehicles in London’s congestion charge (Press Release). (07 July)

Phase 2 of the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) began. (07 July)

OLYMPICS AND 2012

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a report on tourism. The report attacked the decision to cut funding for the Visit Britain agency by £9 million and it said that unless more money is provided to the industry the 2012 Olympics could prove a "huge missed opportunity". (10 July)

Speaking at a Foundation for Science and Technology debate on what will happen to the area after the Games, ODA Chairman John Armitt said the ODA was working closely with the London Development Agency (LDA) to create a Park that benefits local communities after 2012. He said that 75p in every pound invested would contribute to regeneration (Press Release). (10 July)

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell was among the speakers at an Evening Standard debate on the 2012 Olympic Games (ES). The same day, LOCOG refuted claims by the Evening Standard over levels of interest in sponsoring the games (Press Release) (08 July)

The London Environment Committee considered the environmental sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. (08 July)

Elyo, a subsidiary of SUEZ Energy Services, won the contract to build two energy centres west of the Olympic park and within the Stratford City development as well as around 16 km of energy networks (Press Release). (08 July)

New track railway sidings at Orient Way to the north-west of the Olympic Park have been completed ahead of schedule (Press Release). (07 July)

FLOODING

The Government published its response to the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee report on flooding. (08 July)

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced £500,000 to fund up to two pilot projects that will explore how land management can reduce the risk of flooding (Press Release). (04 July)

WASTE AND UTILITIES

The Welsh Assembly Government published a consultation on the Proposed Second Environment Strategy for Wales Action Plan. The deadline for submissions is 18 August 2008. (7 July)

FUTURE EVENTS

Tuesday 15 July - Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee holds an evidence session in its scrutiny of the Draft Heritage Protection Bill

Wednesday 16 July - NEW! CentreForum hold a debate on academies and the future of state education.

Tuesday 22 July - Parliament rises for summer recess