Ministers reject calls for stand-alone legislation for Scotland in the latest Housing Bill debate. John Lewis reports
MINISTERS at the Department of Environment (DoE) have rejected demands to exclude Scotland from fair contracts legislation passing through Parliament.
Robert Jones, construction minister, and other DoE ministers believe that some of the worst abuses and disputes in construction have occurred in Scotland.
They argue that for this reason it would be folly to exclude Scotland from the construction industry changes in the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Bill.
The decision brings ministers into direct conflict with the Scottish Law Commission and the Scottish Law Society, both of which oppose the construction reforms in Scotland.
During the Bills second reading last week in the House of Lords, the Earl of Mar and Kellie said there were objections in Scotland to stand- alone legislation for any particular industry.
He said: I acknowledge that the construction industry has its mid-contract problems, but it is not the only industry with complex problems.
There is no justification for a special regime of law relating to the construction industry. The industry is not so different from other activities in the economy.
Lord Lucas, speaking for the government, said the Scottish problem was appreciated, but the government judged that the legislation should apply throughout Britain.
Labours environment spokesman, Lord Williams of Elvel, also rejected the Scottish Law Commission view, arguing that the industry was so important and the inefficiencies so considerable that there should be no exemptions.
But he described the Bill as a mish-mash and warned that the definition of construction operations in the Bill covered only about half the sites that should be included.
Construction of process plant and steelwork on warehouse sites where pharmaceuticals, food and drink would be stored are to be excluded from legislation.
Calling for these sites to be included, he said: I cannot for the life of me see the difference between those activities and the installation in any building of systems of heating, lighting and so on, which are included.
Lord Howie of Troon, a civil engineer for 50 years, described this part of the Bill as a shambles.
I dont know how on earth anyone can exclude a nuclear power station, he said.
The former DoE minister responsible, Viscount Ullswater, said the construction contract rules must apply to all public sector contracts as well as private sector contracts.
At present, GCWorks1 edition 3 government contract
and the Ministry of Defences DEFCON 2000 contract fail to meet the proposed adjudication procedure for site disputes.