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Government told to shake up liability legislation

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A CAMPAIGN to change liability laws on UK construction projects was launched last week by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).

ACE chairman Martin Nielsen said that the organisation would soon be lobbying the government to make firms proportionately liable for the cost of damages on projects, rather than joint and severally liable, as is currently the case.

This would enable rms to pay a set percentage of costs associated with problems on a project, without being liable to make up the remainder if other parties are unable to pay due to a lack of insurance or insolvency.

'We want the government to introduce legislation where if the criteria says you're 10% liable for a problem, you're only responsible to pay 10% of the damages, not 100%, which is what UK common law says at the moment, ' said Nielsen.

Australia introduced a similar law two years ago after a campaign by the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia; Nielsen sought advice from his antipodean counterparts at the International Federation of Consulting Engineers conference in Budapest last week.

He said that common law in the UK assumed clients were uninformed, but this was no longer the case in the construction industry.

Nielsen added that current common law acts to the detriment of society at large, as it encourages unfair business practices that contribute to the UK's relatively high cost of construction.

'Proportionate liability would make clients much more careful about who they pick as their suppliers, ' he said.

'They could end up with a share of the costs if any of the contractors went bust or if the client themselves contributed in some way to the negligence.

It might also make clients ask themselves why did their contractors go bust and make them much more careful about transferring risk.'

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