Having just read an article by Rupert Choat (16 November, page 80), my mind returned to a report compiled by the late John Huxtable.
Entitled “Corruption of the Commercial Process” 2nd edition 1992 (published by the Confederation of Construction Specialists), it highlighted the various traps and unsavoury devices used by many main contractors on subcontractors, and larger subcontractors on their own sub-subcontractors.
This report was discussed with Sir Michael Latham when he visited the confederation’s offices during his review. And, it could be argued, helped crystallise his mindset before making the initial recommendations, later finalised into Construction Act.
Anyone who read “Corruption of the Commercial Process” in 1992 now reading our industry’s current newspapers and magazines must be wondering, like me, what has changed? We might have a quicker resolution to disputes called adjudication than before, but is it genuinely quick?
Reading Choat’s article, if a contract is all in writing or a dispute has crystallised at all, even if the referring party receives a finding in his favour he (as a condition of the subcontract) becomes responsible for the costs of the other side.
This leaves us with a number of questions. Why has the government allowed a dispute resolution procedure, aimed at improving cash flow, to become more inequitable and difficult for the industry to use? Why has it abandoned wanting to do anything to rectify the act’s major ills?
Perhaps most importantly, why is one of the biggest and oldest industries in the economy not represented by a single full-time cabinet minister? Or, alternatively, why has a cross-party team not been set up, one that is equipped with the personnel required to drive through legislation needed to protect subcontractors – the real workers upon whom Great Britain plc depends.
Peter Lewis, deputy chairman, Confederation of Construction Specialists