Nick Raynsford has warned overseas contractors operating in the UK that they must respect British law.

His comments were aimed at Austrian contractor Geoconsult, which was fined £500 000 in February 1999 for its part in the Heathrow Express tunnel collapse, but has yet to pay its fine.

Raynsford told Building at the Labour Party conference: “Geoconsult has exhausted every legal process and has now gone to the European courts to avoid paying the fine imposed on them in this country.

“We as a government cannot be enthusiastic about overseas contractors who do not respect the law or the judicial process in the UK.”

Geoconsult declined to comment on Raynsford’s views.

The Heathrow Express tunnel collapsed in October 1994; nobody was injured. Geoconsult, which was tunnelling adviser to main contractor Balfour Beatty, lost an appeal against its fine in June last year.

Balfour Beatty paid its £1.2m fine.

Raynsford’s comments on paying for health and safety breaches were backed up in the deputy prime minister’s keynote speech at the conference. Prescott slammed the construction industry for being “indifferent” to accidents.