Theresa May unveils the latest construction minister

Andrew Stephenson has become the latest in a long line of new ministerial appointments by Theresa May as her handling of Brexit continues to take its toll on her stewardship.

The MP for Pendle in Lancashire has been handed the reigns for leading all things construction after his predecessor Richard Harrington quit last week citing the threat of a no-deal Brexit happening.

Stephenson, who was first elected as Conservative MP for Pendle in May 2010, has previously been a government whip, Lord commissioner of HM Treasury, from January 2018 to April 2019 and assistant government whip from June 2017 to January 2018.

As the new parliamentary under secretary of state and minister for Business and Industry, Stephenson will also be responsible for Industrial Strategy delivery, sector deals, aerospace and the rail supply chain.

Harrington’s resignation last week meant he was able to support an amendment put forward by fellow Conservative MP Oliver Letwin that allowed MPs to take control of the Brexit process through a series of indicative votes.

In his resignation letter, he said it was his “responsibility to think and act in the local and national interest” and that the government’s approach to Brexit was “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country”.

It also follows an open letter that was sent to Theresa May earlier this year by five of the biggest construction trade organisations. In the letter, organisations issued a stark warning that a no-deal Brexit scenario could lead to a 4% fall in construction output this year and a further 2% drop next year.

The letter was signed by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Construction Products Association and Build UK.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has responded to the latest appointment by insisting it must be Stephenson’s mission to raise quality and standards in the construction industry through mandatory licensing.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The time is right to look at a meaningful way in which we can purge the sector of rogue firms and unprofessional outfits once and for all. A mandatory licensing scheme for the whole UK construction sector has widespread support among the industry and homeowners, alike. The government must legislate to stop the scourge of unprofessional behaviour blighting the entire industry.”

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