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Conservatives pledge proconstruction focus

Tories promise to end aggies tax and slash VAT on repair, maintenance and improvement

THE CONSERVATIVE Party has been canvassing the views of the construction industry this week in a pre-election push for manifesto ideas.

Shadow trade and industry secretary Stephen O'Brien and shadow construction minister Henry Bellingham met with Construction Products Association representatives at Westminster on Monday, while Mr Bellingham was also on the campaign trail at the Federation of Master Builders' annual conference in Torquay last weekend.

The association is pushing for a review of environmental taxes - including the controversial aggregates tax - to be included in the Conservative manifesto.

Association chief executive Michael Ankers told Construction News: 'There are a number of environmental taxes that are there to change behaviour, not to make money for the Treasury.We want to see a review of these taxes to see if they are fulfilling their purpose - we would rather see incentives.

'The Tories went into the last election promising to get rid of the aggregates tax.They seem to have stuck with that, but they were a bit less specific about at what point in Government they would get rid of it.'

Representatives from the products sector raised the UK's efforts to comply with the European products directive in the teeth of opposition and delaying tactics from Germany.

The shadow ministers said that the Tories would carry out an audit of all European directives before introducing them in the UK and would be looking to ease the regulatory burden in business through the revamping of the DTI into a 'department for business and enterprise'.The Tories also appointed John Redwood to the front bench as shadow deregulation minister this week.

In Torquay, Mr Bellingham said his party would consider slashing VAT on repair, maintenance and improvement works to 5 per cent if they regained office, as well as raising construction's presence in Government.

Current construction minister Nigel Griffiths is a parliamentary under-secretary, while previous incumbents Brian Wilson and Nick Raynsford were higher-ranking ministers of state.

FMB director-general Ian Davis said: 'He was saying some very bold things so it will be interesting to see if they will come about.

'As well as reviewing the RMI issue, he talked about a new deal for construction.'