SEC president drops proposed amendments to Construction Bill in aftermath of cash-for-legislation furore

Proposed changes to the Construction Bill to give subcontractors more legal protection when claiming payments have been derailed by the cash-for-amendments furore in the House of Lords.

A spokesman for Lord O'Neill, president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group (SEC Group), said of the amendments that he “felt it inappropriate in the current climate to pursue them”.

The tabled amendments, revealed by Building last week, would have forced contractors to prove they could pay subcontractors or risk them walking off site.

However, news that four peers risk being expelled from the Lords after allegedly taking cash to change the law has exposed O'Neill to criticism. The peer, a former Labour MP, receives an undisclosed salary as president of the SEC Group. He has declared the interest.

But Rudi Klein, chief executive of the SEC Group, said that O'Neill was supporting an important change to the law as 20 small firms were going bust every week as a result of poor payment packages.

“The SEC Group has spoken to almost 100 members of the House of Lords and I don't see there's an issue here. We will continue to vigorously support the amendments in the Commons and the Lords,” he said.

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, said he thought that O'Neill had unfairly been tarred with the same brush as the four disgraced peers.

“I've already said Lord O'Neill's amendments show us as disunified, so I'm pleased they are not going in, but sad about the way it happened.”

O'Neill is not breaking House of Lords rules because he is not accepting cash for the amendments.