SEC chief asks 100 peers to back changes to Construction Bill that would favour specialist contractors

The news follows the withdrawal of amendments by SEC Group president Lord O’Neill in the wake of recent corruption allegations against four peers.

Rudi Klein, SEC Group chief executive, is meeting members of the House of Lords to convince them to support his revisions in the chamber. O’Neill had proposed clauses that would have enabled specialist contractors to demand proof of ability to pay by main contractors before taking work.

However, he withdrew the first amendments to the bill last week saying he “felt it inappropriate in the current climate to pursue them”. This followed a Sunday Times investigation that alleged to show lords willing to table amendments in return for cash.

Klein admitted his campaign comes at a tough moment. “Lord O’Neill’s withdrawal makes it hard to regain ground,” he said. “But everywhere I go people ask me what we’re doing about this.”

That the president is not prepared to table the amendments looks a bit odd

Rupert Choat, lawyer

Rupert Choat, partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, said O’Neill’s action had made things extremely hard for the SEC Group. “That the president and secretary is not prepared to table the amendments looks a bit odd.

He’s washed his hands of them.”

Choat said “collateral damage” from the “cash for amendments” scandal was stifling debate on the bill. “There is no discussion in committees on banning equivalent project relief clauses, for instance, which is an important and neutral matter.”

O’Neill did not break House of Lords rules because he did not accept cash directly for the amendments, despite being paid an undisclosed sum as president of the SEC Group.