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Govt dismisses key Donaghy recommendations in long-awaited inquiry response

The Government has dismissed Rita Donaghy’s recommendations for a full-time construction minister and the extension of Gangmasters legislation in its long-awaited response to her inquiry into construction deaths.

In Ms Donaghy’s final report, which followed an inquiry ordered by the Department for Work and Pensions, it was recommended there should be a full-time minister for construction.

But in the Government’s response, published this afternoon, it said: “The Government does not accept this recommendation at this time”.

It added: “The Government is aware of the strong support from within the construction industry for a full-time construction minister but believes that the value that derives from a minister being able to bring a broader sector perspective is significant.

“Addressing issues as part of a cross-sectoral portfolio, such as support to help businesses get through the recession, and representation of industry concerns across Whitehall, can potentially bring wider benefits to construction than might otherwise be the case.”

The Government also dismissed calls to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Regulations to include construction.

The recommendation was backed by unions following the Donaghy report publication, but industry bodies demanded it was unnecessary.

The Government agreed, saying: “The responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of construction workers, however, is already clear. Under the CDM regulations, the principal contractor has responsibilities for ensuring the health and safety of all individuals who work on a construction site, regardless of their employment status – including those directly employed, labour-only sub-contractors and the self-employed.

“It would therefore appear that, from a narrow health and safety perspective, robust protections are in place.”

Ms Donaghy, former chair of the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, made 28 recommendations in her 96-page report, entitled One Death Too Many, for the inquiry into the underlying causes of construction deaths.

One key recommendation was for the extension of building regulations, so that health and safety processes could be included when considering building control applications or building warrants.

But the Government said there were “limits to what can be delivered through building regulations”.

“This is because, in many instances where fatal accidents occur, the type of work, for example roof repairs or electrical work, may not be covered by building regulations or may be self-certified and therefore not subject to building control scrutiny. “Furthermore, the limited use of full plans applications restricts the opportunity for

Building Control professionals to apply scrutiny to construction health and safety issues prior to work starting on site.”

Another of her calls was for the commissioning of a Health and Safety Executive pilot study to determine the impact of more non-accident prosecutions. But again the Government deemed the measure unnecessary.

It said: “The Government supports the principle of evaluating the impact of HSE’s work, but does not see the need for the pilot study suggested. HSE’s Construction Division has undertaken enforcement-led inspection initiatives in the past and it will now re-examine the lessons learned from those initiatives and how they can be applied to future work.”

But the Government said fully “accepts” 23 of the recommendations, including the support of common minimum standards throughout publicly funded construction projects; mutual recognition between pre-qualification schemes; and support for greater worker participation. It said it would look further at the recommendations to introduce more legal duties on company directors and to extend licensing regulations to the construction industry.

The Government’s response has been long-awaited by industry and safety lobbyists, who were told following the inquiry early last year that it would be published before the end of 2009.