Industry leaders have agreed to the creation of a wide-ranging “quality mark” to combat cowboy builders after a meeting with construction minister Nick Raynsford.

However, a DETR statement produced after the meeting did not say whether the industry had backed Raynsford on plans for the quality scheme to be a voluntary system.

It had been expected that industry representatives would press Raynsford for a compulsory scheme, partly because they fear that a voluntary quality mark might penalise reputable firms.

This is because firms that pay to achieve the mark would have to charge their customers more than firms that do not go for quality-mark status.

Contractors, in particular, are known to be concerned that reputable small builders already work at a price disadvantage to cowboys because they charge VAT on their work, whereas cowboys do not.

The DETR statement said it was generally agreed that the quality mark must be effectively promoted and that it should be simple for consumers and affordable for small firms.

The statement went on to say that it was agreed that: “The quality mark must be seen to all stakeholders, and especially consumers, as independent, reliable and fair, so that only the cowboys are excluded.” The meeting with Raynsford was being held to discuss the recommendations of an interim report on cowboys drawn up by a group chaired by Stent Foundations chairman Tony Merricks.

The quality mark is due to be introduced in summer 2000.