Unions pleased with plan for new ministerial role but employers ask why Nick Raynsford has been ignored.
Environment minister Michael Meacher is understood to be co-ordinating the setting up of a body to push through the safety targets announced at February's safety summit.

It is understood that deputy prime minister John Prescott has asked Meacher to set up the organisation in response to demands from construction unions, who believe the industry cannot be trusted to put its own house in order.

Meacher is thought to be looking for a big name grandee to chair the organisation. Whitehall sources say Sir John Egan and Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Executive, are contenders for the job.

It is also thought that construction bodies may not be given seats on this new body.

Sir John Egan and HSE chair Bill Callaghan are candidates to head the new body

The initiative appears to conflict with a statement released this week announcing the closure of the Construction Industry Board, and plans for a strategic pan-industry body that would have a role overseeing issues such as safety.

Industry sources say that factions within the DETR are pushing for the "son of CIB" to take on this role, arguing that safety cannot be divorced from the rest of the construction process.

There is also concern that if the unions have their way, and control of safety is passed to Meacher's new body, the drive to push forward the Egan agenda will fall by the wayside. "A body totally concerned with safety will not see the thing in the round," said one industry source, who questioned why Meacher was being drafted in to tackle safety rather than Nick Raynsford, the minister for construction.