I would like to thank Mr Merricks for taking the trouble to reply to my column (27 June, page 34).
I apologise for the factual error about the awarding of CSCS cards to Romanian workers. I can only plead that I was quoting from a Building news item.

But Mr Merrick seems to miss the main points of the piece, which was that there is no genuine skills shortage in construction, only a shortage of people ready to work for the wages the industry is willing to pay; foreign labour is essentially cheap labour.

What I was trying to say was simply that nobody in their right mind would spend years learning a trade if they knew they would be undercut when they tried to bring it to the labour market. He says: "It makes no sense to train more people here for the industry's peak requirements and then sack them when the workload drops." This implies that workers are imported to cope with high demand, but does anyone imagine that they will just vanish when there is another slump? With their willingness to work for less than most UK workers, they will be the last to be sacked.

Mr Merricks' main priority is "to ensure that individuals coming here are competent, can work safely and have a right to be here". There is very little if any check on the competence of many people now working on our sites. The CSCS scheme is a long way from being universally accepted, even for British-born workers, and the average foreign worker has never heard of it. The truth is that safety cannot be established if workers do not speak English – during a visit to one site in central London last week, the foreman confided to me that he was being driven to distraction by his inability to communicate with his workforce. There is allegedly a shortage of building professionals but does anybody have information on how many Ukrainians are working as QSs? Or Russians as architects? Or Iraqi Kurds as structural engineers? Or would it be true to say that the professions have ways of protecting themselves from the free labour market that are not available to the building trades?