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Letters to the editor

Tax penalty

Having read your comments on Labour's first year in office (NCE 30 April) and especially the statement that we must be proactive in smoothing out real howlers, I have waited in anticipation, alas in vain, to hear the Institution's reaction to the Chancellor's proposed change in the tax rules for those working abroad. In seeking to change the one year requirement to establish non-residence, to five years, the Chancellor is at risk of doing untold damage to our profession.

Many young engineers enhance their professional education with a stint overseas, education at all levels being quite rightly a major in New Labour's policy.

Now the employment of engineers, who traditionally work overseas for periods of two to three years, being the average life of most projects, is to be made totally uncompetitive, by the imposition of UK income tax. UK consultants and contractors will consequently find their own overseas contracts becoming increasingly expensive, the more so when rated against our foreign competitors. Further and even more damaging, with the resulting reduction in the numbers of UK engineers working overseas, there will undoubtedly be a consequent reduction in the specification of UK manufactured goods and services with its own knock-on effect on the UK domestic economy.

The Institution should be making vigorous representation to the Chancellor on behalf of the profession before irreparable damage is done to British engineering as a whole. Make two years a qualification of non-residence, if it is felt there is any tax loophole to be closed, but Gordon Brown should be made aware of the adverse consequences of his five year proposal on the British engineering industry.

Further I would expect the Institution, in its new spirit of seeking to serve members interests, to advise members through the medium of NCE, what it is doing in this respect.

RW Flint (F), Deansfield, Ide Hill, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 6JG.

Working on registration

I was interested to read Andrew Palmer's proposal that ICE should seek establishment of a statutory body to control use of the term civil engineer.

However, his article was rather unfairly critical of the Engineering Council stating that 'its activities could be argued to have weakened the definition of an engineer'.

On the contrary, the Engineering Council fought hard to establish the credibility and standing of registered professional engineers - chartered, incorporated and engineering technicians. Extensive study of the options available to the profession has been undertaken, including a review chaired by Sir Den Davies in 1995, and a Task Group on Licensing current reporting to Senate. There has also been considerable discussion with civil servants, and informal legal advice has been sought.

Essentially, the current government has indicated that it would be sympathetic to some form of statutory regulation, but has set a high hurdle of demonstrating universal support from industry. While the idea of a reserved title is attractive, as Professor Palmer observes, 'the title engineer is lost'.

Andrew Ramsay, director for engineers' regulation, Engineering Council, Essex House, 12/13 Essex Street, London WC2R 3EG.

Use the guidelines

Why do we need further research on the problem of cost and time overruns due to ground related problem (NCE 30 April)? The previous research carried out by the Site Investigation Steering Group, under the chairmanship of Professor Littlejohn, has already provided adequate guidelines for best practice in ground investigation and if they were applied there would be a reduction in the ground related problems during construction. What the profession really needs is a concerted effort to apply these existing guidelines.

Steve Wilson (G), 63 Norton Road, Reading RG5 4AJ.

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