My attention was drawn to a letter sent yesterday by the Construction Products Association's chairman Adrian Barden to the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform regarding the current plight of the construction industry.

It makes hard, clear, well researched and convincing points. It outlines the problems and makes the case for solutions. I'll admit I personally would have asked for more from Government, as there is much more I feel it can do without damaging the state of the public finances.

But I was impressed at the timing and the tone. The industry needs desperately to make its case to Government.

I then reflected on which firms are the real gatekeepers to the work entering the construction industry. Which firms or group of firms would have most clout with Government?

Construction products producers are suppliers, lower tier players, they rely on those above them in the food chain to generate the business.

Ah yes, it is the contracting fraternity that seek the work and bring in the bacon for the industry and its suppliers - in the main that is. And in large part the important players are the big main contractors.

So what were they doing yesterday in response to the biggest fall in construction output since 1980?

Were they also joining forces to lobby the Government to explain to an administration that really doesn't get the scale of the crisis just how bad things are?

Well no. For the most part the leading lights of the contracting firms were either keeping schtum or pleading "non est mea culpa" to being on the client list of an exceptionally disgusting business that seems to have been secretly snooping into the lives of construction workers and keeping unchecked files.

And, on the surface from what the Information Commissioner's Office has released, it would seem that the business was more or less a continuation of work previously done by the Economic League, which wrapped up its operations after being continuously exposed as the disgusting creature it was. So, given the occasional break, that is best part of a century that the construction industry has been politically vetting its workforce then.

I recall that in the 1980s when I wandered blinking into the industry as a journalist I was not surprised that the leaders of the construction industry back in those days would use such a tactic. They were brought up in the "bullying" school of management, and I smelt it for all their ostentatious cufflinks and Savile Row suits. Subtlety was not their strong point.

I am profoundly disappointed to have to consider that the current crop of management might have engaged in such appalling activities or even to have turned a blind eye.

But whatever the outcome of any investigation into who knew what in which company, the dirt is flying and it is sticking in large clods to the contractors - the front line firms within the industry.

Worse, this comes less than a year after the Office of Fair Trading named 112 construction companies in allegations over bid rigging. The industry has yet to wash that dirt off.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been disappointed by the apparent indifference of main contractors to the obvious (well to me at least) slide of UK construction into what looks like the deepest of recessions.

They have however - the quoted ones that is - found plenty of time to impress the City with the size of their order books - rather giving the impression that things are not so bad in UK construction.

Meanwhile, rather more below the radar, from my chats with subcontractors and suppliers it is clear that the subbie bashing attitudes are re-emerging.

This again is disappointing. I have met in recent years some charming men - and they have been all men - who run top contracting firms. They have looked me in the eye and told me of the importance of the new agenda in construction.

They have talked of the mistakes of the bad old days. They have talked of how important people are. They have talked of improving health and safety, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, transparency, good supplier relations and a host of other things that I, certainly for one, wanted to believe had substance.

They talked with vigour and passion about the need to improve the image of the industry, to make it an industry the most talented would want to join.

There are few things more galling for a journalist than to feel misled. But this is not about my vanity.

The point I seek to make is that the industry desperately needs leaders who can influence Government.

There appeared no shortage of contracting bosses prepared to take the stages at conference after conference in the earlier years of this decade to espouse the virtues of more virtuous contracting practices. Where are they now? Were they simply on "gong minting" missions back then? Did they mean it?

Like it or hate it the contracting fraternity are seen by the Government more than any to embody the construction industry. And that is an important responsibility, as the Government plays an exceptionally big role in determining the future for the construction industry.

So to the fearful construction worker, the desperate materials supplier, the worried subcontractor, the shattered labour supplier, the concerned small builder, the redundant consultant, the distraught architect - all I can say is, like it or not, a large slice of your fate lies in the hands of major contractors and the impression they leave with Government.

So I ask the question: Are the leaders of the contracting industry fit for purpose?

If they are not, then the construction industry enters this recession with an even less powerful voice than the hotchpotch of voices that Michael Heseltine - in his uber role in the Government of the day - complained of when the industry was last in the mire.

What do I think? Well to use an old Chinese proverb I just made up: Johnny-come-lately with halitosis will get less good hearing than early bird with fresh breath.