Wales politics

Wales regulations drive builders to England - David Jones

David Jones MP
Welsh Secretary David Jones says construction helps to drive much of the economy

Strict regulations in Wales are driving construction firms to work in England, claims Welsh Secretary David Jones.

His spoke as Rowecord Engineering, of Newport, is going into administration, putting 400 jobs at risk.

He said north Wales firms were choosing to work instead in north-west England because of the constraints.

The Welsh government said it is committed to supporting the construction industry in Wales and to stimulate economic growth.

Mr Jones renewed his attack on the Welsh government after accusing it on Saturday of establishing a "Soviet-style" system of enterprise zones which is "holding Wales back".

He told the Welsh Conservative conference in Swansea that Labour ministers had created bureaucracy for the zones but "nothing is happening" on the ground.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement, Mr Jones said construction was crucial to the economy.

"Construction, especially in Wales, drives everything else not just the building industry itself, but also those trades that depend upon it," he said.

"That's why I wanted to focus upon it (at the conference).

"I was very sorry when I heard about the administration of Rowecord Engineering. I'm very hopeful, of course, that the administrators will find a suitable purchaser."

Mr Jones said the Welsh government had to accept some of the responsibility for Rowecord's downfall.

"One of the concerns I get regularly expressed to me by the construction industry in Wales is that the regulatory environment in Wales is so much more onerous than that in England.

'Unfair costs'

"At a time when [UK government minister] Eric Pickles is slowly but surely reducing the burden in England we're seeing the quite opposite impact in Wales."

He said the demands of environmental regulations such as BREEAM resulted in a 20% premium on average on the price of a building in Wales.

"Several contractors I know, very well established SMEs (small and medium enterprises) who've been in business a long time in north Wales have now told me that what they do is that they get their men up earlier in the morning and they go and build in the north-west of England," Mr Jones added.

"That's got to be bad and it's a sign that really the Welsh government have got to look at it again."

Mr Jones said the Welsh government could be using devolution to its advantage and applying extra incentives to those seeking to relocate in Wales or wanting to erect buildings in Wales.

"In other words make it easier to do so," Mr Jones said.

Labour Newport West MP Paul Flynn accused Mr Jones of trying to trivialise Rowecord Engineering's problems and turn them into a "petty party point" when they were much deeper.

Mr Flynn, also speaking on Sunday Supplement, added: "The problem is the dreadful state of the construction industry and, of course, the burden the steel industry has with the unfair costs of energy and these go right back to the (UK) government.

"It's outrageous to suggest that the Welsh government haven't been co-operative.

"This has been going on for many, many weeks now and the assembly has done everything they could possible do. They've been as co-operative and as generous with the offer they made to the company in order to make sure this situation didn't occur.

"They couldn't have done more."

Streamlined system

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "We are committed to supporting the construction industry in Wales and are continuing to invest in capital projects to support the industry and stimulate economic growth.

"In our most recent budget we announced an additional capital funding package of £232m over the next two years."

The spokesperson added that in terms of planning the Welsh government recognises the need for a "proportionate and a proportionate and streamlined system".

It has worked with the Federation of Small Business to update planning policy to facilitate economic development and further changes to the planning system to promote economic development are currently out to consultation.

"Our proposals around changes to building regulations aimed at delivering lower fuel bills and greater safety standards for householders are currently open to consultation."

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