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Greater regulation is not the route to best practice.

Greater regulation is not the route to best practice.

John Woodhall discusses why more industry regulation will not deliver quality improvements.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire and Carillion’s demise, serious questions are being asked about what went wrong and it’s no surprise that tighter industry regulation is being proffered as a route to higher standards and even better best practice.

Indeed, this is the view of Trevor Hursthouse, chairman of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group, who is proposing the creation of a new government body.  With similar powers to the statutory organisations that oversee water, energy, telecoms and rail, and with a remit to drive best practice, the thinking is that it would oversee the procurement practices of public bodies.

As well as challenging bad practice, the proposed Construction & Infrastructure Authority would create strategies to deliver projects safely, on schedule and within budget. It would intervene to stamp out supply chain abuse and would raise technical capabilities by promoting schemes to accredit competent businesses.

Anything that improves quality in construction should be welcomed, but I’m not convinced that a new statutory body is the best way forward and any solution needs to work across the board. A raft of building regulations and statutes is already in place and organisations such as CHAS and Constructionline are doing sterling work in driving home the importance of working to best practice.

People make mistakes when managing businesses, and not only in the construction industry, but it doesn’t mean that when things go awry we need to bring in another set of regulations. Creating a statutory body such as the Construction & Infrastructure Authority would add an extra layer of bureaucracy as opposed to tackling the root cause of the problem.

Construction is a complex industry and, over the years, revisions to regulations have, in all probability, contributed to a degree of watering down. Rather than applying another level of policing, what we really need to address is how we can improve the quality of existing regulations and improve management so that the system is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

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