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17 October 2019

Queen’s Speech misses mark on late payments

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed several positive initiatives for the construction industry announced by Her Majesty today as part of the Government’s proposed legislative agenda, but expressed disappointment that a Bill to enact essential reforms to end poor payment practices was not included.

BESA praised the commitment to legislate for new building regulations, which includes action on building standards in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. It welcomed the establishment of a new regulator with powers to impose criminal sanctions for breaches of building regulations.

BESA chief executive, David Frise, said: “If done right and in close consultation with the industry, the proposed new building regulation regime could cement a better culture of competence and compliance within the industry, and crucially, save lives.”

The speech also proposed an Environment Bill, which would set much needed, legally binding targets to reduce outdoor air pollution, but BESA noted the lack of action on indoor air quality.

Mr Frise said: “We spend 90 percent of our time indoors so it’s essential more support is given to making sure our buildings are safe havens from outdoor air pollution. Indoor air is often at least five times more polluted than outdoor air due to the range of sources and greater concentrations in confined spaces – this is a point that successive governments have failed to grasp.”

However, Mr Frise was sceptical about whether the Government is able to deliver this programme: “The Government has lost its parliamentary majority and is clearly focused a general election. We would certainly like these initiatives to pass but the real question is, will it even happen?”

The Queen’s Speech was also silent on one of the most important issues for SMEs in the construction industry – ending late payment and the abuse of retentions money responsible for devastating upstream insolvencies, like those seen after the Carillion collapse.

Mr Frise commented: “If this is the starting gun for an election. Both sides of politics should take note that for thousands of owners and workers of SMEs, who have suffered too long from poor payment practices, this would be a vote winner.”

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