From left: Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford; Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clywd South; Stephen Kerr, MP for Stirling; Bill Grant, MP for Ayr Carrick and Cumnock; Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun and Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham

An expert working group on the contribution of one of the UK’s largest manufacturing industries has been launched at an event in Westminster.

The announcement was made as the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF), which includes Norbord, hosted a reception to mark the reconstitution of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Wood Panel Industry.

The working group will be chaired by Stephen Kerr, MP for Stirling. Alastair Kerr, director general of the WPIF, will be the working group’s secretary, with further members to be announced in coming weeks.

The group will report to the APPG, and its findings will be presented to Claire Perry MP, minister of state for business and energy, in the autumn.

It will assess the challenges facing the sector due to lack of security of domestic wood supply, how the industry can meet 100% of UK demand for wood panel products post Brexit, and how it can coexist with the wood processing and wood fuels sectors which also rely on a finite wood source.

The wood panel manufacturing sector currently uses 25% of the 11 million tons of wood delivered from UK forestry every year, with WPIF members suppling approximately 65% of the total UK annual consumption of wood-based panels. Products – including OSB (oriented strand board), MDF (medium density fibreboard) and chipboard – are supplied to some of the UK’s biggest brands including B&Q, Jewson and Wickes. 

Together, WPIF’s members – Norbord, Egger and Kronospan – employ 2316 full-time staff at plants in Cowie (Stirlingshire), Inverness, Auchinleck (Ayrshire), Hexham (Cumbria), Chirk (North Wales) and South Molton (North Devon), and have a combined GVA in excess of £850m a year. More than a further 5000 jobs are dependent on the sector in associated industries.

Stephen Kerr MP says: “I am delighted to announce that I will be chairing an expert working group to consider the contribution made by the wood panel sector to the UK economy. Our group will assess the challenges facing the sector due to the lack of security in wood supply, how the industry can meet 100% of UK demand for wood panel products post Brexit, and how it can co-exist with the wood processing and wood fuel sectors who also rely on the UK’s finite wood basket.”

Alastair Kerr says: “As an industry, we are increasingly struggling to source a sustainable supply of forest roundwood and thinnings, sawmill products and recycled wood.  Over the coming months we will be developing proposals that will support the sector, and through it industries including construction, furniture, packaging and transport, as we look to maintain our contribution to the UK economy into the future.”

Stephen Kerr MP was joined at WPIF’s reception by the APPG’s outgoing chair, Susan Elan Jones MP.  Also present were Alan Brown MP, Bob Stuart MP and Jim Shannon MP, Rt.Hon. Guy Opperman MP and Bill Grant MP.

They met with representatives from WPIF’s members, including apprentices who work at Norbord, Lisa Munro and Allison Day; Egger, Jordan Pegg, and Connie Moore; and Kronospan, Sion Smith and Dan Morris.