Howarth Timber and Building Supplies recently welcomed Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn to its branch at Prince Edward Works in Leeds, to learn about how merchants deliver for their communities - and to discuss issues affecting the supply chain and the wider West Yorkshire economy.

During the course of the visit, which had been arranged by the Builders Merchants Federation, Benn, who chairs the House of Commons Brexit Committee, met with Regional Manager Ian Williams, who provided an overview of Howarth Timber’s recent investments including in the branch’s Howarth At Home kitchen, bedroom and bathroom showroom.

The local MP also discussed how the 178-year-old business is evolving to meet today’s construction challenge with Managing Director Nick Howarth. He spoke about the impact of leaving the European Union without a customs agreement and, in particular, having to pay VAT upfront on imported timber and other materials.

Benn said: “I was delighted to visit Howarth Timber today and learn of its contribution not only to Leeds, but also to the wider Yorkshire economy. It was a pleasure to meet regional manager Ian Williams and his team in Leeds who help customers with their housing and home improvement projects. We need better quality and more affordable homes to improve the lives of constituents.

“I want to see a mutually-beneficial UK-EU customs agreement to help companies like Howarth Timber. Time is not on our side and with nine months left, future customs arrangements and other crucial elements affecting Yorkshire businesses have not been agreed by the Cabinet, or negotiated with the EU.”

Howarth said: “With Brexit negotiations underway and lots of questions still to be answered about the future of the UK building industry, this is a crucial time for builders merchants and tradespeople. These issues could have a significant impact on our business and our customers’ businesses.

“As one of the companies in the local area that will be impacted by these changes, we were grateful that Mr Benn was able to accept our invitation to learn more about the vital role merchants play in supporting the small businesses and sole traders on whose shoulders much of the building industry rests.”

The BMF represents 650 merchants and suppliers who together have combined sales worth £29.5 billion. Benn heard that the latest BMF economic data shows total merchant sales were up 8.8% in the month of April, compared to April 2017. In the rolling 12 months from May 2017 to April 2018, total merchant sales were 4.7% above the same period a year earlier.

The visit was arranged by the BMF as part of its industry and parliamentary programme. The BMF takes MPs to visit merchants in their constituency to see how builders', plumbers' and timber merchants deliver for local communities.