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Housing minister: Offsite can replace 'unskilled' foreign workers

Housing minister Dominic Raab has suggested offsite construction can help reduce the industry’s “over-reliance on cheap unskilled labour from abroad”.

Speaking at the Housing 2018 Conference in Manchester, Mr Raab said modern methods of construction were an opportunity to attract more UK workers to the industry.

“Modern methods of construction are not just a good way of building high-quality homes at a faster rate that are cheaper for consumers,” he said.

“If you think about moving a big chunk of your workforce into a factory from various different disparate sites, we make an interesting offer to the UK workforce about what the construction sector looks like.”

Mr Raab, who was on Vote Leave’s campaign committee prior to Brexit, added: “That will probably and hopefully over time wean us off over-reliance on cheap, unskilled labour from abroad.”

The minister’s comments about the quality of foreign workers will likely raise eyebrows in the industry.

The CITB’s policy director Steve Radley told CN this month that workers from Poland were “generally regarded as being technically some of the best”.

The industry in London is particularly reliant on EU workers, which make up 27 per cent of the workforce, according to government figures.

Mr Raab, who replaced Alok Sharma as housing minister in January, said yesterday: “There will be opportunities and risks with Brexit and I’ve always been clear about that.”

Speaking at the same conference, former Tory minister Oliver Letwin dismissed concerns of an exodus of labour post-Brexit.

“I’m of the persuasion that although we are taking control of immigration during the Brexit process, we will end up with much the same group of people actually in the country, because we actually need them,” he told delegates.

Mr Letwin, who served as a minister under David Cameron, has also warned that the UK faces a shortage of bricklayers.

The warning came in the first part of his government-commissioned report on the barriers to building more homes, published this week.

Yesterday, he added: “If we are going to increase the amount of building as much as the government intends, we will then suffer a significant shortage of bricklayers – about 15,000. That gap is too big to deal with suddenly.”

The government last week unveiled details of a £22m fund to tackle the construction skills shortage.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Has the minister been to an off-site production facility?? In my experience there are more Eastern European workers than on major sites in London.

    Just making blanket statements like this is nothing but a sound bite.

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