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Government says ‘yes’ to construction champ

The chairman of an influential group of cross-party MPs has spoken of his delight that one of his committee’s key recommendations has received Government approval.

Peter Luff, Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire and the chairman of the Business and Enterprise Committee, said: “I’m delighted the Government has taken up the committee’s proposal for a chief construction officer (CCO), and I’m sure my committee colleagues would agree.

“Industry has long been pressing for a greater level of co-ordination of Government policy on construction, which is split over a number of Whitehall departments.”

Mr Luff was speaking to H&V News after the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced it was planning to hold a consultation on the creation of a ‘champion’ role for construction.

The civil service-level post-holder would act as a liaison between Government and the construction industry, helping to drive regulatory consistency across Whitehall, Berr said. The move was in response to a key recommendation made in the Construction Matters report, published by the committee in July.

Mr Luff rejected the suggestion that by launching a consultation, instead of accepting the need for the position when there was already clear industry support for the role, the Government was simply engaging in delaying tactics. He said the industry had been asking for a dedicated construction minister, which the committee did not endorse.

“We resisted the temptation to recommend a dedicated construction minister. Rather, we felt that a top-ranking civil service position, analogous to the chief scientific adviser, would provide the necessary co-ordination and long-term strategic leadership that the industry so desperately needs.

“While our report set out the high-level terms of reference for the post-holder, we unreservedly welcome the Government’s decision to consult on the details.”

A Berr spokeswoman supported his comments. “The industry has been asking for a dedicated construction minister for some time and a CCO is not the same as a minister,” she said. “One reason why we decided to have consultation is to clarify the CCO role and to find out if this is what industry wants.”

But Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan, president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors (SEC) Group, which represents over 60,000 firms, said: “In our evidence to the select committee we urged it to recommend that the Government appoint a ‘champion’ to drive best practice procurement across the public sector.”

And Professor Rudi Klein, SEC Group chief executive, added: “The industry does, by and large, support this role, so to launch a consultation is a bit of a nuisance. Nonetheless this is a good move and we are delighted our recommendation is being progressed.

“The concern I have is that the person who is appointed does not take on too much. I think the CCO’s priority should be on implementing the Construction Commitments across public sector construction and that person should not think about tackling anything else until that has been achieved.”