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25 OCT 2019

RICS at the UK Political Party Conferences

Over the course of September and October, RICS attended the political party conferences of the "big three" in parliament - Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats - to engage, inform and influence the country's decision makers and industry leaders.

In and amongst the Brexit commotion, the political parties went ahead with their annual conferences; and, as ever, RICS were present to capitalise on events that bring together the UK's political leaders and influencers into one place at the same time.

Conservatives – Manchester: 29 September – 2 October 2019

RICS' flagship event at the Conservative conference was the Housing Hub on Monday 30 September at the Manchester Chambers of Commerce. RICS officially launched the impartial Fire Safety Guide, and moved straight into an agenda that was packed from start to finish and comprised speakers from across industry and build environment stakeholders, and attracted a constant flow of MPs, councillors, industry leaders, build environment professionals and members of the public. The unique housing expo presented a united front to politicians and advisors – through speeches or exhibitions - in demonstrating expertise and commitment in making the housing market work for all, with the day culminating with the RICS Residential Reception.

Outside the Housing Hub, RICS took part in numerous panel discussions, covering housing, devolution and towns v cities, ensuring the views of RICS professionals were delivered to key individuals and organisations in the land and built environment debates. We also co-hosted an "In conversation with Jake Berry" event with RTPI, RIBA and CIOB covering his Ministerial remit of the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth.

The underlying message throughout the Conservative conferences was getting Brexit done; with Boris Johnson's leader's speech coming across as a rallying call for members and country than an opportunity to address the stand out domestic issues of the UK.

Read RICS' assessment of Boris Johnson's speech here.

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Eddie Hughes MP at RICS Housing Hub
Eddie Hughes MP at RICS Housing Hub

Labour – Brighton: 21 – 25 September 2019

Labour's conference agenda required amending following the Supreme Court's decision on the prorogation; meaning Jeremy Corbyn's leader's speech being brought forward by a day.

This did not have an impact on RICS' engagement programme as we were already well underway, and close to concluding, when the decision was made. Our engagement at Labour started with a sector roundtable, hosted in conjunction with Prospect magazine, with Alex Cunningham MP to discuss housing – specifically supply and regulation. It is clear that housing is of primary concern to the Labour party; with Shadow Secretary of State for Housing - John Healey MP – announcing proposals to increase supply, and tackle the unaffordability issues in ownership and the PRS.

These were reiterated in Corbyn's leader's speech, and you can read our assessment of his address here.

RICS also hosted a joint event covering diversity in the built environment with Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP and Karen Buck MP providing some very interesting remarks on the issue of breaking down the barriers and ensuring the UK has a diverse pool of talent to tackle the housing crisis.

In terms of announcements, there was a lot carried over from last year's conference; meaning the debate hasn't moved forward in a year, the focus on domestic issues has been overlooked by Brexit, or a combination of both. That did not stop RICS engaging with a number of high level Shadow Ministers at roundtables, panels and receptions to ensure our policies were heard by those who could be in power should a general election be called in the near future.

Big ben parliament
RICS' engagement with Labour included a sector roundtable to discuss housing - a primary concern for the Labour party

Liberal Democrats – Bournemouth: 14 - 16 September 2019

The Liberal Democrats are a party with an increasing presence in the Commons (be it from a low base) as MPs defect from Labour and the Conservatives. In reviewing the conference agenda, it is quite clear that the party is still very grass roots in focus; but that did not limit RICS' engagement programme with a party which has a higher degree of influence at a local level and in the Lords than in the commons.

Brexit, climate change and housing took centre stage (a common trio at all party conferences); with the latter focussing on the issue of supply. RICS met numerous elected officials to discuss our policy priorities around housing and climate change, with commitments to engage further going forward.