Industry figures have called on new construction minister Ian Lucas to raise the sector’s political profile with the creation of a chief construction officer.
Many are concerned that the minister’s other responsibilities – including the automotive, manufacturing and retail sectors – at the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will hinder his effectiveness as construction’s parliamentary mouthpiece.
Calls were renewed for the creation of a chief construction officer who could dedicate his or her time to the industry.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association director Rosemary Beales said: “Ian Lucas has an opportunity to reinvigorate the role of construction minister, taking responsibility for ensuring that the industry’s profile in Whitehall and Westminster matches the scale of its contribution to the UK’s economy.
“Construction is competing for space in a crowded brief within a crowded department. It has not yet been made clear whether there will be a chief construction officer and this should be among the first matters that Mr Lucas addresses.”
She added that CECA would like to see Mr Lucas use his role to secure a sustainable pipeline of public sector work for the industry, amid fears that public spending will be slashed.
UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe echoed CECA’s views on funding and a chief construction officer but said he felt “total frustration” about the appointment.
“[Mr Lucas] is the sixth man in as many years and by the time we get him up to speed there’ll be a general election
“If you look at his portfolio – the man must be a workaholic. It seems he has got a massive workload.”
Wrexham MP Mr Lucas this month replaced Ian Pearson, who held a position with a similar remit for less than nine months before becoming economic secretary in the Treasury as part of Gordon Brown’s post-expenses scandal reshuffle.
Mr Lucas is the ninth construction minister since 2001.
As well as construction, his responsibilities cover eight other business sectors: aerospace; marine and defence, automotive; chemicals; manufacturing; materials and engineering; retail; and services.
In addition, he will take on the Better Regulation Executive, Olympic legacy issues, sustainable development and regulation including waste electrical and electronic equipment issues, the Companies Act, Companies House, the Insolvency Service (including companies investigations) and export control.
Home Builders Federation director of external affairs John Slaughter said: “I think he has some knowledge of the industry and sustainability, and that will be quite useful.
“A useful synergy would be with the Better Regulation Executive. Housing is a heavily regulated sector and we’re keen that a better regulation agenda is applied to construction.”
Meet the new boss
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas was born in 1960 in Gateshead, County Durham.
After studying law at New College, Oxford, he qualified as a solicitor in 1985. During his career as a solicitor, Mr Lucas represented the bodyguard injured in the car crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales.
He joined the Labour party in 1986 and was elected as MP of Wrexham in the 2001 General Election.
Recently he has supported local pub landlords in their Fair Pint Campaign, and in January he met with bosses at JCB after it sacked 58 workers in his constituency.
Lucas emerged from the MP expenses scandal relatively unscathed having claimed £1,388 for furniture in his one bedroom flat in London over a five-year period.
He said: “I regard a bed as an essential item.”
On his website he lists his political interests as transport, education, home affairs, the environment and overseas development.