THE BRITISH Consultants and Construction Bureau (BCCB) this week urged the government to fund reconstruction projects in Iraq to help UK firms win postwar work.
It wants to avoid a repetition of the aftermath of the last Gulf War in 1991 when US firms won almost all the work.
'The UK government must make a suitable contingency to persuade UK firms to go back and assist in the reconstruction of Iraq, ' said BCCB chief executive Colin Adams.
'This cannot be achieved without some form of kick start; we cannot rely upon US handouts or wait to compete for multilateral funding eventually made available from such as the UN, World Bank or EU, ' he said.
BCCB director Nigel Peters said that work funded by the US would provide only subcontract opportunities for UK firms.
'We hope that the UK government will come up with some money for reconstruction on its own so UK firms could act as main contractor.
'Many UK firms worked in Iraq before 1990 while many consultants have skills relevant to humanitarian relief, ' he said. A fifth of the BCCB's 300 members have experience in Iraq.
Around 80 BCCB members are to attend a meeting in London on 10 April with senior officials from the Department of Trade & Industry and the Department for International Development. Officials are expected to outline likely opportunities.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has not yet let the first 'umbrella' reconstruction contract worth almost £400M.
The privatised development assistance firm Crown Agents has become the first UK firm to win work in Iraq, winning a £5M subcontract on another USAID contract.