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01 April, 2011

HBF Policy Conference 2011 Speech by Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman

Good morning and welcome to HBF’s 2011 policy conference.

I seem to say this every year but once again we meet at a critical time. Last year we staged a question time style debate between John Healey and Grant Shapps – then respectively Housing Minister and Shadow Housing Minister as we pondered the outcome of last Mays General Election and what implications different results would have for our industry.

Today – as the title of today’s event suggests we consider the environment we are operating in almost 12 months since the coalition came to power. One thing is certain however - housing is at the top of the media and political agendas.

This is not, as some commentators have suggested after last weeks Budget announcements, because HBF is so effective at lobbying  but it is actually  more of a reflection of the scale of the housing crisis with which we are faced

HBF has of course played its part, and our role as a ‘critical friend’ of Government has no doubt helped inform their decisions. In your pack you will find a copy of our Annual Review for last year that is published today and has a lot more details about the work HBF has been doing.

Also in your pack are details of this year’s HBF Customer Satisfaction Survey, conducted once again for us by NHBC, the results of which are outstanding. The headlines are that nearly 9 out of ten buyers were satisfied with both the quality of their home and would recommend their builder to a friend.

These are levels of satisfaction that compare very well with any industry or sector and are results of which we should be truly proud.

Anyway, back to today.

The Government’s recognition of the scale of the problem we face was reflected in many of the measures announced in the Budget. We welcomed those measures – in particular the introduction of the FirstBuy scheme to help first-time buyers, commitments to reduce regulation, confirmation of  a  presumption in favour of sustainable development, the announcement today of the Build Now Pay Later scheme  and a practical change to the zero carbon proposals – all of which HBF has been lobbying  Ministers and officials about  for some time – most recently in our submission to the Treasury of items we wanted the Budget to address. 

Be clear however that these items alone will not solve the housing crisis in this country. We are currently building fewer homes than at any time since the early 1920’s,  around 5 million people find themselves  on local authority waiting lists and the number of first time buyers now stand at under 200,000p.a compared with around 600,000 not that many years ago.

So as much as we welcome the measures announced in the Budget we all recognise there is much more to be done

Joining us today we have an outstanding line up of speakers to give us their thoughts on all these issues and more.

In just a minute we will hear from our first speaker the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles.

After the secretary of state the recently appointed Director General of the CBI, John Cridland will be joining us to explain how he  feels the Budget will impact on not just our industry, but more widely across the economy – and also how the economic benefits of building more homes, in terms of job creation, may help our economy grow.

Completing the first morning session will be Professor David Miles. David has been sitting on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee since June 2009, and has also, amongst other roles, been a specialist economic advisor to the Treasury Select Committee.

You may recall that in the 2003 Budget the then Chancellor commissioned him to lead a review of the UK mortgage market that resulted in the very influential Miles Review. With the current problems with regards to mortgage lending and the impact they are having on the economy, we will all be very interested in hearing from one of the people responsible for setting interest rates with much speculation that against a backdrop of higher inflation a rate increase is inevitable.

Still on the subject of mortgages after coffee and a pause for breath Stephen Noakes, Commercial Director at Lloyds, one of the biggest providers of mortgages to the housing market, will join us to provide a perspective from a lenders viewpoint

And as you will see from your programme there is much more to come later but first I am delighted to introduce our first speaker Eric Pickles, widely regarded as one of the most influential members of the cabinet having been Chairman of the Conservative Party prior to the election following which he was appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

 As a strong advocate of localism his department is of course responsible for the current  very critical planning reform process  and as an ex Council leader – he used to head up Bradford City Council – he is uniquely positioned to understand the impact of those proposed changes to the planning system on Local Authorities. He also has a reputation for abolishing things but I am told there is no truth in the rumour that his favourite song is “The first cut is the deepest”. Ladies and Gentlemen please give a very warm welcome to Eric Pickles.

Stewart Baseley

Executive Chairman