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Decision on construction tsar is imminent

Hopes for the establishment of a chief construction officer were raised last week after construction minister Ian Lucas promised an announcement “very soon”.

Government sources have indicated that Lucas − who has been in the post for just two months and is the ninth MP to take up the construction brief in eight years − is personally strongly in favour of the idea.

Speaking to NCE’s Graduate of the Year Emma Kent last week, Lucas confirmed an announcement would be made soon. “We have had lengthy talks with the construction industry and I know what you want,” he said.

Industry leaders have been pressing for such an appointment for several years, but political progress stalled every time a new minister was appointed.

“We have had lengthy talks with the construction industry and I know what you want.”

Ian Lucas, construction minister

“The subject was top of a wideranging agenda of issues I wanted to raise,” said 25-year-old Buro Happold structural engineer Kent.

“But I never expected such a definitive answer.”

Kent’s 40-minute meeting with the minister was part of her package of rewards for winning NCE’s Graduate Awards last December.

Last year the Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform select committee recommended the appointment of a tsar for the construction industry to act as the main adviser to government. Construction and civil engineering organisations are overwhelmingly in favour of the idea.

Unlike any other client

But the wider engineering profession favours the creation of a government chief engineer to represent all engineering disciplines. Last month the Innovation, Universities, Science & Skills select committee endorsed this broader appointment.

“Government is unlike any other construction client as it sets the regulations and pays the bills, but is also responsible for running the economy” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes. “The appointment of an adviser specifically from within our industry is vital to explain to government the importance of a sustained workload.”

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