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Migrant workers are only a short-term fix, MPs told

Migrant workers have better health and safety skills but are a short-term solution to staff shortages, leading industry figures have told MPs.

Construction also has a public image problem, is too fragmented and is slow to embrace change, according to industry bodies quizzed by the Trade and Industry Select Committee’s inquiry into the UK construction sector on Tuesday.

Skanska chief executive David Fison, former construction minister Nick Raynsford and Construction Products -Association president John Colley talked about topics including the industry’s reliance on foreign labour, its health and safety record and ability to work with the public sector.

The MPs returned frequently to the amount of migrant labour in the industry. John Colley praised their safety knowledge ahead of their UK counterparts, but Mr Fison said migrant workers were a short-term solution to staff shortages that only proper research and development could solve.

Mr Fison also added there have not been enough incentives to change methods of procurement and construction delivery ahead of projected output increases.

Despite praise for the Highways Agency, the panel admitted some difficulty with innovation for public sector working compared with private sector counterparts.

Select Committee chair Peter Luff said: “It seems incredible that the industry has more trouble dealing with the Treasury than banks.”

The last major inquiry into construction back in 2002 focused on retentions and called for them to be removed from public sector contracts by 2007.