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Construction Act consultation due

Department of Trade and Industry to publish paper by end of March

THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry is finally set to publish its consultation document on the review of the Construction Act this month.

Elizabeth Whatmore, head of the DTI's construction sector unit, told Construction News at last week's industry safety summit that the document would appear by the end of March.

Chancellor Gordon Brown originally announced the review of the legislation a year ago.The paper was due to be published in December following Sir Michael Latham's review last summer.

But Ms Whatmore said: 'It is quite a big document to reflect the input into the review.We were looking at the possible use of regulatory reform orders and we were also held up by some devolutionary issues to work out how any amendments would apply to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

'We're now almost ready and should be beginning the consultation by the end of the month.'

Ms Whatmore added that the consultation was unlikely to be affected if the Government goes ahead with its expected plans to call a general election in May.

Civil servants enter a period of purdah when an election has been called but industry stakeholders are likely to have received the document and begun working up their responses while the election campaign gets under way.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, welcomed the appearance of the consultation paper.

He said: 'I understand that all the issues that came through in the review will be appearing in the document and I'm glad it's coming out because we've had enough delays already. Recent events such as the collapse of Benson highlight the need for the Act to provide more insolvency protection for companies.

'We will be concentrating on issues such as reversing the British Eagle judgement to allow clients to pay subcontractors directly when a main contractor fails.We will also be pressing the Government to put an end to 'pay when paid' in the case of third party insolvency.'

It is expected that the industry will have at least three months to respond to the consultation document, with the Government announcing any proposed changes to the Act as a result in the autumn.