Lord O’Neill withdraws SEC Group amendments in light of Lords scandal

Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group president Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan has withdrawn proposed amendments to the Construction Bill after corruption allegations surfaced against four peers at the weekend.

Lord O’Neill had put down amendments that proposed changes to the Bill, to be discussed in the House of Lords next week, particularly in respect of payment terms to subcontractors and adjudication procedures. O’Neill is paid an undisclosed fee for his role as president of subcontractors’ umbrella body, the SEC Group.

The amendments were withdrawn as O’Neill felt it “inappropriate in the current climate to pursue them,” said a spokesperson. The House of Lords stressed that O’Neill had declared his interest with the SEC group during the debate and there is no question of impropriety.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the SEC Group, said: “Obviously it’s a disappointment but the amendments to the Bill are necessary and in line with what the government is doing to help SMEs. If the Bill goes through without these amendments, subcontractors won’t have their payment terms improved in any significant way.”

Klein has today written to 100 members of the House of Lords to explain the amendments and ask for their support. Following the debate in the House of Lords, the Bill is expected to move to the House of Commons in late February or early March.

“Our message to ECA members and other subcontractors is to make your mark with your MPs as the Bill moves to the House of Commons. With over 20 small firms in the industry going bust each week, we have to continue the fight.”