Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive of the Construction Confederation, has replied to criticism of the industry skills card scheme CSCS.

Last week, Building columnist Colin Harding claimed that the industry had allowed the government to persuade it to pilot identity cards under the cover of CSCS. He said the industry had well-established skills registers, such as NVQs, and commented: “CSCS must be abandoned and the CITB alone should continue with safety training and testing.”

Ratcliffe has rejected these views, which he described as conspiracy theories. He said: “Conspiracy theories come in all shapes, sizes and rationales and accordingly elicit a wide range of responses from the ‘just about possible’ to ‘what planet are you on?’.”

He added: “The theory proffered by Colin Harding that the CSCS skills initiative is in fact a sinister government-sponsored scheme to bring in ID cards by the back door deserves to be filed with the more outlandish theories.”

Ratcliffe added: “At worst, it is a damaging and misleading message to be sending out about an industry-driven safety initiative. Quite simply, there is no conspiracy. There is nothing to hide.”

Ratcliffe said most sections of the industry were committed to having a fully qualified workforce through CSCS or an equivalent scheme by 2010. He said that some, such as the Major Contractors Group, intended to hit this target earlier.

Client support was growing and the CSCS management teams were working on a strategic business plan that would drive the scheme forward faster, he added.