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Wed December 01 2021

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Builders’ licence legislation falls at the first hurdle

22 Nov A Private Member’s Bill attempting to create a compulsory licence scheme for the building trade has been withdrawn.

Mark Garnier MP, advocate of builders' licences    [CC BY 3.0]
Mark Garnier MP, advocate of builders' licences [CC BY 3.0]

The Domestic Building Works (Consumer Protection) Bill was presented to the House of Commons by backbench Conservative MP Mark Garnier on Friday 19th November for its second reading, only to be withdrawn without being put to a vote due to lack of government support.

Mark Garnier, MP for Wyre Forest, argued that requiring licences for builders would address problems of incompetent and rogue builders within the domestic repair, maintenance and improvement sector.

However, when construction minister Lee Rowley flatly refused government support for the creation of such a bureaucratic regime, Mr Garnier withdrew his Bill.

The minister said: “The question always comes back to the philosophical discussion that we have daily in this place: what we think the government should do, when they should intervene and when it is proportionate to do so. This is rightly about balancing how we protect the consumer and protect and support individual agency – with markets that have sufficient information and knowledge in them so that people can make decisions without needing other organisations, groups or the state to intervene.”

He added: “Although, I am afraid to say, on balance we as a government are not minded to support the Bill at this time, we are very keen to continue to discuss this, because we accept that there is an issue. The question is whether a licensing scheme is proportionate to the problem at this time.”

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Instead, he said, the government had recently consulted on proposals for a mandatory alternative disputes resolution scheme in the home improvement sector. “There will be more information on that in due course,” he said. It is also requiring TrustMark registration for its domestic decarbonisation retrofit programme.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), which has been leading the campaign for a licensing scheme, said that it was disappointed not to have secured government support.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “While the government’s failure to back the Domestic Building Works (Consumer Protection) Bill is disappointing, its commitment to work with stakeholders and industry and find a solution to stamp out cowboy builders is at least welcome news.”

He added: "It simply can’t be right in a modern economy that anyone can call themselves a builder without any form of licensing or registration to check they are competent. This is not only a serious question of consumer protection, but also one of promoting economic growth in the building industry.”

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