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SEC blasts Lib Dems for calling police into Lords row

The Specialist Engineering Contractors Group has blasted as “outlandish” Liberal Democrat calls for Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan to be investigated by police.

Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne called for an official probe into Lords with paid positions with industry groups, including Lord O’Neill, in a letter to police.

Mr Huhne asked them to investigate if the peers in question have contravened the common law offence of bribery.

Lord O’Neill has a paid role as president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group and recently withdrew proposed amendments to the Construction Act that would have benefited specialist contractors.

Lord O’Neill withdrew the amendments to avoid any suggestion of a conflict of interest and has strenuously denied allegations of sleaze.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of SEC Group, accused Mr Huhne of jumping on the bandwagon.
“The word outlandish springs to mind. The guy is not a lawyer and the suggestion Lord O’Neill could be guilty of the common law offence of bribery is absurd,” he said.

Mr Klein insisted that the SEC Group was continuing its efforts to find MPs and Lords who would table the amendments to the Construction Act desired by the industry.

“We have lost ground, but the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill is taking time to work its way through parliament, so there is time to recover. We are still canvassing MPs and Lords hard to back the amendments.

“We would encourage firms in the sector to write to their MPs expressing support for the proposed amendments to the bill.

'If MPs are alerted to the importance of these amendments in securing payment for sub-contractors and helping prevent good firms from going out of business, they will be more likely to support it.”