News & Events

CTI Blog - If the PM is serious about solving the housing crisis, she must scrap Chequers & broker an improved deal that ensures timber can clear customs freely

This article is by Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian and Chair of the Timber Industries APPG

 

Earlier this month, Theresa May reaffirmed to the Conservative Party Conference her ‘personal mission’ to fix our housing crisis. Yet in the same speech, she reiterated her commitment to her Chequers Plan, which would crash the UK out of the Customs Union and Single Market after we leave the EU. In fact, the Chequers plan will fundamentally fail to retain any customs arrangements with the European Union. 
 
Without frictionless trade, I believe we face a clear challenge to build the number of homes the Prime Minister has committed to providing over this parliament.
 
This challenge exists because the supply of timber is essential to meeting housing demands. This sector, which contributes £10bn to the UK economy each year is still hugely reliant on trade with EU countries. Incredibly, 90% of the timber used to build homes in the UK is imported from across Europe. 
 
Whilst we do grow and harvest timber in this country, we simply don’t have enough to fill the void that will be left after Brexit. Even if we had the space, the time it takes to grow the trees does not meet the immediate housebuilding demands we face.  
 
Timber businesses across the country, including those in my own constituency of East Lothian, have strong relationships with several European countries and have built successful enterprises which employ over 200,000 people across the UK. This workforce is reliant on these imports. 

Our current relationship is remarkably simple; timber entering the UK from the EU clears ports immediately with no need for customs checks to be carried out. These materials are instantly available to be used or sold. Leaving the EU threatens the simplicity and efficiency of this arrangement. 
 
The realities of a poor deal or even no-deal after we leave is that these imports will be sitting in custom checks for weeks. A clear practical challenge which would face the industry is this; whilst the timber was being checked through customs, it could not be used or sold, and would need to be stored by the company. This is placing a significant logistical and financial burden on businesses, many of which are SMEs, many of which will not easily absorb these additional costs. 
 
Housebuilding and timber go hand in hand. The sector is already stepping up the challenge with new factories, skills-training and solutions. Current output stands at around 60,000 homes per year. This could grow to over 100,000 by 2020 using existing capacity. We have a great deal to be positive about within this sector, but the government is putting this progress at risk. 
 
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Timber Industries, I am going to make the case today that our housing needs are reliant on continued access to the Customs Union and Single Market. If the Prime Minister is serious about solving the housing crisis, she must start by scrapping Chequers and broker an improved deal that ensures timber can clear customs freely after we leave.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-if-government-wants-build-more-houses-it-needs-workable-brexit-deal]

CTI Blog - Positive steps forward on apprenticeships and housing in Autumn Budget 2018

This blog post is by Helen Hewitt, CTI Director and CEO fo British Woodworking Federation (BWF)

 

On 29th October 2018, the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Autumn 2018 Budget, the last before Brexit. We were pleased to see some positive measures which will help smaller businesses offer apprenticeships. The £695m initiative to reduce the cost of apprenticeship training for small businesses will halve the amount they have to contribute from 10% to 5%. UK’s SMEs are pivotal to the success of the apprenticeship scheme and this should go some way to resolving the growing skills gap in our sector and to help boost productivity.

Delivering a solution to end the UK’s housing crisis has long been on the political agenda and so we welcomed the Chancellor’s promise of a further £500m for the housing infrastructure fund to help build a further 650,000 homes. In addition, he pointed to strategic partnerships with 9 housing associations to “deliver 13,000 homes across England, up to £1bn pounds of British business bank guarantees, to support the revival of SME house builders.” On the surface, tapping into the potential of SME house builders to increase housing stock is a smart move. However, as we pointed out following the Spring statement, a successful housing strategy is not just about increasing supply. The fund now stands at £5.5bn, yet there was still no mention of an allocation to ensure that essential fire safety works required in existing social houses are paid for. So, the question still remains as to who will foot the bill.  

In more good news for house building, the importance of investing in our high streets with a £675 million Future High Streets Fund to allow councils to rejuvenate town centres could lead to benefits for members. With the Federation of Master Builders estimating last year that as many as 300,000 to 400,000 new homes alone could be created by making use of empty spaces above shops on our high streets, the Future High Streets Fund could be a further boost for residential accommodation.

The Chancellor pledged to publish a full response into the review of build out rates by Sir Oliver Letwin which concluded that large housebuilders are not engaged in ‘systematic speculative land banking.’ We welcome any move to reduce bureaucracy in the planning system and look forward to the Governments response to the recommendations.

The collapse of Carillion left many wondering what the impact on subcontractors would be and called for a review of public sector construction contracts. Some clarity came on Monday when it was announced that public private partnerships will soon be no more with PFI and PF2 contracts abolished. Existing contracts under the PFI and PF2 system will be honoured but no new ones will be signed and a “centre of excellence” will be set up to manage the remaining contracts, worth approximately £200bn. However, more clarity is still required around how a new model will work to ensure that the infrastructure this country requires continues to be built.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/cti-blog-positive-steps-forward-apprenticeships-and-housing-autumn-budget-2018]

Martin Whitfield MP elected new Chair of Timber Industries APPG

Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian, has been elected as new Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Timber Industries at its AGM at Westminster.

The APPG brings together parliamentarians from the Commons and the Lords with an interest in the UK's timber industries to ensure that issues affecting the sector are highlighted within Parliament and to Government.

Officers of the renewed APPG now include: Joint Vice Chairman Bill Grant, MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Conservative), Joint Vice Chairman Chris Elmore, MP for Ogmore (Labour) and Joint Vice Chairman Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury (Conservative).

The timber industries contribute over £10 billion per year to the UK economy and are in the top 50% of manufacturing industries in the UK. The sector employs around 200,000 people across the UK, in construction, manufacturing and distribution. 

East Lothian is one of the most important hubs for the timber industries in Scotland, including Alba Trees, the UK’s largest supplier of cell grown plants, and various sawmills and timber merchants all located within the county.

One of Mr Whitfield’s first acts as Chair will be to lead a Westminster Hall debate on the effect of Brexit on the UK’s timber industries on Wednesday 31st October.

Martin Whitfield MP said: “The timber industries APPG was one of the first I joined after entering Parliament, so I'm very pleased to now have the opportunity to chair the group and play a bigger role in promoting the interests of the sector.

"Local businesses in the timber industries play an important role in providing jobs in East Lothian. They help facilitate demand across the UK for sustainable, managed forests and contribute to addressing the housing crisis by providing affordable, environmentally friendly timber-framed homes.

"I will continue to work with parliamentary colleagues and industry representatives to stand up for the needs of the UK’s forestry and timber industries and promote them in Parliament."

David Hopkins, Director of the CTI added: “We are delighted that Martin has taken up this role with the Timber Industries APPG. The timber sector can play a key role in achieving the goals of a number of policy areas, from housebuilding to clean-growth. We look forward to working with Martin and fellow members of the APPG over the coming year to do this.”

The photo gallery of the meeting is available here.

Find out more about composition and activities of the Timber Industries APPG here.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/martin-whitfield-mp-elected-new-chair-timber-industries-appg]

Press Release - Martin Whitfield MP elected new Chair of Timber Industries APPG

Martin Whitfield MP elected new Chair of Timber Industries APPG 

Martin Whitfield, MP for East Lothian, has been elected as new Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Timber Industries at its AGM at Westminster. 

The APPG brings together parliamentarians from the Commons and the Lords with an interest in the UK's timber industries to ensure that issues affecting the sector are highlighted within Parliament and to Government. 

DOWNLOAD FILE

‘Time For Timber’ at CTI Hub, Timber Expo 2018 – Highlights

CTI Joint Stand at Timber Expo 2018 - MEDIA RECAP

From 9 to 11 October 2018, the Confederation of Timber Industries and its partner organisations British Woodworking Federation (BWF), Structural Timber Association (STA), Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and Trussed Rafter Association (TRA) showcased the many opportunities of building with timber at Timber Expo 2018. The CTI Hub aka ‘Time For Timber’ represented a benchmark for the entire show, offering a wide array of workshops, seminars and networking events.  

You can find a visual recap of the event - including photos and presentations - here.

Pages