No need for MMC taskforce, says Gove

Housing secretary Michael Gove has said he doesn’t believe a modern methods of construction (MMC) taskforce is necessary, after criticism that a promised £10m taskforce had never materialised.

At a House of Lords’ Built Environment Committee session on 6 February, Gove said that “other issues have loomed larger” since the taskforce was announced almost three years ago.

The committee had questioned why the taskforce had never met in a report released last month.

Praising former prime minister Boris Johnson’s interest in MMC, Gove emphasised that new leadership had changed the priorities of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities since the government announced the taskforce and allocated it £10m in the 2021 Budget.

Liberal Democrat peer Earl Russell asked: “To be clear, from your point of view, you don’t particularly see the taskforce as the way forward to unlocking future use of MMC?”

Gove replied: “I don’t believe that it’s necessary in and of itself, but good people can differ.”

He said it was “not the case we have neglected the sector”, pointing to conditions set for MMC within Homes England’s Affordable Homes Programme and a £15m loan given last November to modular housebuilder TopHat.

The committee also questioned Gove on other aspects of the report, including criticism that Homes England could not produce a unified strategy document, prompting committee chair Lord Moylan to suggest they “probably haven’t got a strategy”.

Gove said: “Just because it’s spread across several documents doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – the constitution of the United Kingdom is spread across multiple documents.”

Lord Moylan also asked whether Affordable Homes Programme grants had sufficiently encouraged more advanced categories of MMC, including volumetric methods, over less risky modern construction techniques.

Gove replied that prioritising speed over scrutiny in assessing funding bids was necessary to build affordable homes to meet the housing need.

He added: “It is… a fair point to make that of all the priorities that Homes England has, stimulating the [MMC] sector is not in the top three.”

The government is due to respond to the report’s recommendations within the next four weeks.

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