UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 629-i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

Communities and Local Government Committee

Building Regulations

Monday 2 September 2013

Steve Bratt, Martin Bruno, Philip Buckle and Emma Clancy

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1-41

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Communities and Local Government Committee

on Monday 2 September 2013

Members present:

Mr Clive Betts (Chair)

Bob Blackman

Simon Danczuk

Mrs Mary Glindon

James Morris

Mark Pawsey

John Pugh

Andy Sawford

John Stevenson

Heather Wheeler

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Steve Bratt, Group Executive Officer, Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), Martin Bruno, Chief Operating Officer, National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT), Philip Buckle, Director General, Electrical Safety Council (ESC), and Emma Clancy, Chief Executive Officer, Ascertiva Group Ltd, the trading subsidiary of the Electrical Safety Council, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Good afternoon and welcome to our second followup session of the inquiry into building regulations. Thank you very much for coming this afternoon to give evidence to us. Could I just ask for the sake of our records that you say, going down the line, who you are and the organisation that you represent?

Philip Buckle: Thank you, Chair. For the sake of brevity, on behalf of myself and my colleagues, I am Phil Buckle, who represents the Electrical Safety Council in the UK, which is dedicated to electrical safety. Steve Bratt is Chief Executive of the Electrical Contractors’ Association, which is a leading electrical contractors’ association for England and Wales. Emma Clancy is representing Certsure, which ECA and ESC formed to set up the Electrical Safety Register, which is a wholeoftheUK register and covers 80% of electricians in England and Wales, which equates to 34,000 electricians. It offers a very strong consumer offer. It is not for profit, and it provides a single complaint and redress system to verify that everyone who comes on to the register is assessed for competence.

Martin Bruno: Chairman, my name is Martin Bruno. I am a representative of NAPIT and I am also a Director of ElectricSafe Register. NAPIT is the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers. We are DCLGauthorised to run the Competent Person Scheme and we have been authorised since 2005, and currently have over 8,500 registered enterprises on that electrical scheme. We also run other schemes. That is me.

Emma Clancy: Emma Clancy, and Phil has given an introduction for us all.

Steve Bratt: The same, yes.

Q2 Chair: Okay, thank you for coming once again. We have had exchanges of correspondence and a more informal meeting some time ago. I suppose we are here to probe the same issue and ask the same questions. Perhaps you can tell us once again why the industry collectively, in its various parts, has been unable to agree upon a single scheme and a single register for competent persons. It was something that seemed to us as a Committee, when we suggested it, might take a little time, but was not unachievable. We have had quite a lot of time now and it has not been achieved.

Philip Buckle: If I can start, since we met you in January at the informal meeting, there has been some work undertaken. The Electrical Industry Summit, which the ESC hosted in March, was the starter for that process, where we came out with a number of recommendations in a White Paper, which we have sent around to you. I know you received a copy and other members of the Committee, as well as a wider industry group. That has moved forward, as we advised that we would be looking at using the Competent Person Scheme and developing a mark around the whole Competent Person Scheme solution. Work had been undertaken through a marketing group, which the ECA has supported through one of its staff members. Indeed, the ESC has also had one of its team working on that committee. I know the Competent Persons Forum has not met to look at the work that has been undertaken, but I believe it is meeting tomorrow, so there has been some progress towards that common mark that we discussed at the industry summit.

Q3 Chair: But it is not a common scheme, is it? What you have effectively done is to put a common mark over two separate schemes, which have got two separate brandings themselves, so you have just got another layer of branding on top. That is right, is it not?

Steve Bratt: That is right, Chairman. It may be helpful to just point out that the way the legislation is structured, the Part P scheme is a competitive framework with competing schemes and, therefore, those schemes run independently. What you are talking about is correct; it is alignment at a higher level.

Q4 Chair: Basically, you are saying you are not going to go for a common scheme. You have put it completely off the agenda, out of possibility.

Martin Bruno: Can I speak on behalf of ElectricSafe? There have been joint letters talking about a common brand on the CPF marketing scheme. There is nobody here from the CPF marketing scheme, so I think it is unfair to talk about what they actually progressed and have to offer. I can speak on behalf of ElectricSafe Register, of which I am a director. As I said before, I do not want to be controversial, but I think there is one scheme. We promote competent persons. DCLG and your Select Committee suggested that there is a lack of branding in the competent persons arena and that is what we have done; we have created a brand and a scheme open to all Competent Person Scheme operators.

Emma Clancy: We believe that it needs to be much more than a brand or a scheme. What consumers need is reassurance, redress and firsthand verification of people’s competence when they are choosing them. ElectricSafe is really like a telephone directory: it is a list of numbers and it appears that there is no direct verification of that. What we think is that, whatever the one scheme is that is created, it has to have very strong consumer credentials and not be a list of telephone numbers, and be the first point of contact with an organisation that has the direct powers to put things right.

It is also important to remember that, when Certsure was created, we shared the Committee’s objectives of simplifying the landscape within the competitive framework that Steve has discussed. In the creation of Certsure, we brought together two of the scheme operators and, therefore, did actually establish one place where 80% of the electricians are registered who do 90% of the electrical work in the UK. However, obviously there are other Competent Person Scheme operators and that is the way that the scheme is run currently, with Part P creating those baseline standards to which we all adhere, but Certsure aims to go further, in terms of both the consumer credentials and its operations.

Q5 Chair: Mr Bruno, you are being told that your scheme is not to the same standard as the other scheme. Therefore, they will not join you.

Martin Bruno: I disagree entirely, because we are DCLGauthorised, Governmentauthorised, to run a Competent Person Scheme. We are UKASaccredited. We are DCLGinspected by UKAS, and we adopt and live by the EAS, which are the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification standards, which we all adhere to on this table here. I cannot see what further standards the Electrical Safety Register is talking about. We have five of the six, maybe seven if you include BESCA, of the Competent Person Scheme operators on our register. We have the British Standards Institute; we have OFTEC; we have Stroma; and we have Benchmark. They all follow the same criteria and levels of authorisation. Can I add that ElectricSafe Register now advertises or has a search facility for all electricians? We will check an electrician, which links back to the competent persons site. We can proudly boast that we actually promote 100% if not more of the competent persons fullscope qualified electricians.

Q6 Chair: What is the new overarching brand going to be called then?

Martin Bruno: As I said, I think there is one brand out there, which is ours.

Q7 Chair: We were told you would actually have a brand that covers everything; that you have agreement on that. You are going to keep your own brand and then put another brand on top of it.

Emma Clancy: The Competent Person Scheme’s own website where all of the Competent Person Schemes are listed is the single point where a householder can go to find an electrician or whoever else they may need.

Q8 Chair: That is the great comingtogether, is it?

Emma Clancy: That is what we have committed to the Committee that we would look to promote.

Q9 Chair: The public is going to be enthused by the idea that their understanding about what to do to make their homes safe in terms of rewiring, etc., is to go to something called the competent persons website. It trips off the tongue, does it not?

Emma Clancy: There is more work needed to be done. Certainly, one of the things that the marketing team has looked at is improving the functionality of that, and that is part of their thing. What we also know is that, actually, the bigger challenge is electrical safety awareness more generally. Certainly, that is why we have undertaken a number of campaigns to actually raise people’s awareness of the basic dangers of electricity in people’s homes and the need to choose a competent person wherever they come from. That is why the Electrical Safety Council’s work, as the only charity in the industry, is so important in that key criterion.

Q10 Mark Pawsey: We do not seem to have got much further from the meeting that we held on 23 January, as far as I can see. Do you as organisations talk to one another? How are the negotiations to try to settle this being held, or are there no negotiations?

Martin Bruno: As ElectricSafe Register, back when we launched it in November, we also had a meeting with the Minister, Don Foster, and we said we would go out and talk to all the Competent Person Scheme operators to ask them to join and support one single brand. Can I just go back a little bit? My understanding of the Select Committee’s recommendations was promotion of a Competent Person Scheme-a domestic scheme-and that is what we have done. We have gone out there and we have asked all the scheme operators, including Certsure, to join and support that overriding brand called ElectricSafe, supported by or fed into by all the scheme operators.

Q11 Mark Pawsey: What this Committee is keen on is what Emma Clancy referred to, which is a simplification of the system, but we do not seem to have achieved a simplification of the system. We seem to have got entrenched positions by different bodies, and I am just wondering what your view is of how we resolve this matter.

Emma Clancy: The Electrical Safety Register has certain key values, in terms of being the people who actually do the assessment themselves. If something goes wrong and a consumer calls us up, we can help and we also have powers to have discussions with the contractor, etc. We also feel that there need to be the fundamental campaigns around electrical safety and the charity is best placed to do that. We also feel that the assessments need to be extremely robust, and that the Electrical Safety Register needs to grow. We are certainly in talks with another party with a view to very quickly bringing on another 1,200 contractors. What we would ask the Committee to do is to look again at our progress, in the timetable that the Government has already set out, and measure again exactly these issues. We would volunteer to play a key role in doing that and to fund independent research that we can agree in whatever makes the Committee comfortable to see, so we are asking for more time to deliver what the Committee is asking.

Q12 Mark Pawsey: You aim to deliver a single register.

Emma Clancy: We aim to strengthen our position.

Mark Pawsey: No, do you aim to deliver a single register-yes or no?

Emma Clancy: All right, no, because the building regs will not let us.

Q13 Mark Pawsey: What you are saying is there is no willingness between the four people who are sitting opposite the Committee today to go to a single register.

Emma Clancy: There is not a willingness to drop our standards in the light of the register. We want a single register, but it has to be meaningful, protect the consumer and serve the industry, and that is what we are striving to develop.

Martin Bruno: I believe wholeheartedly in a single brand fed into by all the scheme operators and key competitive elements. We have that single brand. The Electrical Safety Register is a Certsure contractor scheme, which promotes domestic and commercial. We are just looking at the man on the street looking for a domestic installer to work on their house in a safe manner. Emma talks about robust assessments and so on. We work to the same assessment process. We agree at EAS committee to that assessment process. I cannot see what differentiates their standards to all the other members of scheme operators supporting ElectricSafe Register.

Q14 Mark Pawsey: I think we heard that you had a meeting with the Minister quite recently.

Martin Bruno: I met the Minister in November.

Q15 Mark Pawsey: The other body has not met the Minister.

Emma Clancy: No.

Q16 Mark Pawsey: What do you think the Minister makes of all this?

Steve Bratt: I am sure the Minister would want a single scheme, but he is also aware of the fact that Part P is set up deliberately under a competitive arrangement. When the review was done recently, the conclusion was that contractors should have choice and competition was a good thing, so effectively you have competing schemes-separate schemes and commonality of standard. What we are talking about now is trying to get them to operate under a common identity.

We were competitors until two years ago. We started a process of trying to bring things together. We thought 80% of the industry was good, particularly as it does 90% of the work. What we found was we could not just bring it together under a common brand, because the first time it gets tested as a website, it will just fall apart. It has to have substance. Two years in the making were Certsure and the Electrical Safety Register, and what we concluded was that the assessments have to be done in one place to a common standard. There has to be one process for handling complaints and we created a new entity to do that, which we are joint venture partners in. That was challenging enough to get standards aligned, but it was made somewhat easier by the fact that we are a trade association and a charity. We can reassure that we are putting our money back into the development of the industry. It is clearly much more complex when you bring in other providers, particularly private companies.

Q17 Mark Pawsey: So it is the Government’s fault.

Steve Bratt: No, it is not fault; it is just that is the way it has been structured. The question that was raised previously was: should we have one register? The Committee has already identified it is a question they wish to revisit. When the outcome of the last review was done, that was identified as being in two years’ time. There is an outstanding question in two years to decide whether a single scheme should exist. What Emma has tried to articulate is the work we could do to help that decision, but that would be about a scheme. That would be a robust change, not a bringing together of identities of websites.

Philip Buckle: Just from a consumer perspective, the outline Steve has given is that we brought together, through the ECA and ESC, a large number of contractors, from England, Wales and Scotland, so we cover the UK. From our research with consumers, which we undertake significant amounts of, we know awareness of Part P is quite low. From our last survey, it was about 14% of those surveyed and it is a 2,000sample survey done by a research company such as Ipsos MORI, so it is a robust piece of work. That awareness is falling, and we need to work in terms of developing an understanding of how consumers procure electricians, because we know there is a huge range of directories out there. For example, Checkatrade has just recently announced it is sponsoring Crawley Town Football Club. People will use different routes to find a tradesperson, whether it is an electrician, a plasterer or whoever it is. Of course we have TrustMark, which we are all party to.

From our point of view, we want to understand whether or not there is confusion from the consumer about the number of registers out there or whether it is confusion about how to procure an electrician but, once they understand how to procure an electrician, if they go to Electrical Safety Register, ElectricSafe or another register that might be out there, or directory, as long as they are going to a competent person, that is what the ESC wants to drive them to. SELECT, the Scottish trade association, is very supportive and keen to participate in the Electrical Safety Register activity, because they adhere to and follow the same values and work activities that we do.

From the point of view of asking for a bit more time, because there is going to be a natural point where a review is undertaken of Part P, in 2015, our position is, has always been and is stated that ESC would fund and would be delighted if NAPIT would participate in that research to undertake further investigation to establish what the consumer’s position is in all of this.

Chair: Confused, I would have thought.

Martin Bruno: As ElectricSafe, we try to strip back the layers of confusion. We are promoting what is already there. It does not need reinventing. We have created that single brand. Phil talks about consumer research. I do not know if you are aware, but we are undertaking our own consumer research. I agree with Phil; there is a lack of understanding out there on procurement of electricians. There is an even bigger lack of understanding of competent persons. The fact that there are some brands out there promoting safety, procurement and so on to the consumer is a step forward.

As I said earlier, we have five of the six Competent Person Scheme operators on board. We think that is quite significant. We have invited Certsure to join us, and I got a decline last week. I am still adamant that our scheme or brand is what DCLG and this Select Committee was asking for-i.e. a common brand for electricians, domestic electricians, fullscope competent electricians out there. It already exists.

We have done research and one of the things that has come out from research is some quite amazing stats. One of biggest things is that people still use their friends and relatives, who are not necessarily qualified. There is extreme danger out there, but we are trying to put that right. We have undergone significant campaigning with advertising throughout the country to promote the brand and bring that awareness of the dangers of using unsafe people to work on home electrics to roost.

Q18 Heather Wheeler: I do not know whether perhaps just one each of you could say what you think the differences between the two registers are.

Martin Bruno: My register-I say "my register", but it is actually not NAPIT’s register, but five other individual organisations who are supporting it-promotes fullscope electricians already authorised through the DCLG Competent Person Scheme and registered with the DCLG Competent Person Scheme. My view is that the Certsure register is a scheme to promote their contractors, which includes domestic and commercial. My scheme, the ElectricSafe scheme, is a domestic scheme only.

Q19 Heather Wheeler: That is clear. Would one of the other chaps or the lady like to say just in case there is a difference?

Emma Clancy: The Electrical Safety Register covers 80% of the industry doing 90% of the work, and it covers all of the UK. It does cover commercial and domestic work, but probably the key difference that we think is very important, whatever register is set up and whatever journey we take from here, which needs to be top of our minds, is this point about direct verification. Martin referenced that the ElectricSafe directory had taken away a layer; we believe it has added one in. If a consumer complains to us, we are the organisation that is undertaking the assessment of the individual concerned. We can talk to that contractor, and we can fix things for that consumer. ElectricSafe, in the terms of complaints, simply passes it back to the scheme operator, so the consumer gets bounced from one place to another when they have an enquiry, and is not in a position to do that firsthand verification and checking of the contractor. In terms of a consumer proposition, that is a very key and important point.

Also, all of the funds from the Electrical Safety Register go up to the charity and the trade association. The charity does a range of wonderful work, in terms of giving grants to old people who need electrical work fixed in their homes. The trade association works very hard to raise standards in the industry, and that has been the case for a total of 150 years-50 years for the charity and 100odd years for the trade association. That is part of our culture. We do not exist for shareholder gain. We are not confused by that. The people who do the inspections within Certsure are directly employed by the organisation, and we believe that is why we have 80% of the market: because the market understands that is what sets us apart.

Q20 Heather Wheeler: That is very clear; thank you very much. What I am interested now in, then, is again making sure we have all the groundwork done here. Are there any technical standards that are different between the two registers?

Martin Bruno: On the CLGauthorised Competent Person Scheme, we work to the EAS committee’s recommendations and standards. We work to those standards; they are Government standards, Governmentendorsed. I cannot understand why we need to work to some arbitrary standards created by another register.

Q21 Heather Wheeler: You think you create different standards, do you?

Emma Clancy: Martin is absolutely right. Part P is the baseline that we all operate from, and we are all scheme operators, too. We believe our standards are the most robust in the industry and we go out to apply them in that way, but the baseline standard is the same and that is back to the Part P landscape for the domestic side of things. It is not the same on commercial.

Q22 Heather Wheeler: I suppose we are really getting down to the nittygritty now. Mr Bruno, why do you not think you can join their scheme?

Martin Bruno: I would support any scheme that promotes competent persons.

Q23 Heather Wheeler: That is a very good answer. Ms Clancy, why do you not think you can join his scheme?

Emma Clancy: It is not a case of joining the scheme. It would be a case of joining the directory that is ElectricSafe, and we do not think the consumer proposition is strong enough within that or moves us forward.

Q24 Heather Wheeler: Final question from me: what changes do you think, Mr Bruno, would be helpful from their scheme, so that it could be joined with your scheme?

Martin Bruno: It is not a case of joining. We have a brand, fed in by five DCLGauthorised operators. Their scheme is their own scheme promoting domestic and commercial. We would join any scheme that would promote domestic electricians following the same standards throughout. We believe in one scheme or brand fed in by multiple schemes.

Q25 Heather Wheeler: Not to put words in your mouth, Ms Clancy, if your scheme is so good because it deals with the complaints as a onestop shop, how could you see the other big scheme meshing in with yours?

Emma Clancy: The ElectricSafe Register?

Heather Wheeler: Yes.

Emma Clancy: We are confident in our 80%, in the sense that that is the biggest scheme that exists. We have offered the opportunity for discussion with NAPIT and ElectricSafe, but it needs to be against the basis of making a contribution to the charity and the trade association by Certsure also being able to conduct those assessments. We have that firsthand knowledge of it and the transparency that you would expect to come from any partnership, as Steve has outlined, which would involve other things as well.

Q26 Mrs Glindon: Could you say if there is any reason why this Committee should not produce a report concluding that the Government should use its powers to bring in a mandatory scheme, just like Gas Safe?

Philip Buckle: Just from a consumer perspective, if I step back a couple of years to 2010, the Electrical Safety Council did endeavour to work with all of the scheme operators at that time to provide a portal that would allow a consumer, in a friendly facing way, to look at all of the contractors on the Competent Persons website. It was apparent that not all the scheme operators were keen to support that. Even though we were going to fund an online campaign to promote that to the consumer, we had to withdraw our offer because the legal liabilities that were being placed upon us should we agree to the contract that was being put forward would have meant that we could not have met our liabilities; it would have been too onerous for a charity to undertake. That was why we embarked upon the journey that we have been on, in terms of setting up the Electrical Safety Register in partnership with the Electrical Contractors’ Association.

Being a trustee of the Gas Safe Register, I can also speak in terms of the benefits of a mandatory scheme. From a personal perspective and experience out there in the industry, I do not actually think that there is a need to move into the mandatory requirements, because the current Part P scheme works quite well. We have worked hard as ESC to make sure that we have retained it, although the changes have yet to filter through to see what impact the changes made earlier this year will have on us. That is why we have said all along, and we wrote to you recently that there are a number of things we need to establish and move forward on to provide you as a Committee with evidence to make a final decision, as to whether you would recommend going towards a mandatory scheme or looking at living with two major brands out there that promote to the consumer or, in some way, bringing those together on a voluntary basis.

As a consumer proposition, we have about the right shape for making sure consumers get the electrician they need, who is competent and qualified. I do not think it is necessary to push the industry into a mandatory scheme, because that would add costs and change requirements for electricians. Particularly in these tough times that would be a big ask for them, and I do not think it would benefit the consumer either, personally, from a safety point of view.

Martin Bruno: Can I just say that my fellow colleagues here have worked in the electrical safety industry for 150 years, yet here we are today discussing a recognisable brand to consumers? Sorry, but what have you been doing for 150 years? I am not keen on a Gas Safetype register. I am keen on a brand, fed in by DCLGauthorised Competent Person Scheme operators, and that brand would be supported by my colleagues on ElectricSafe, which is five out of the six or seven schemes, if you include BESCA. We would support that scheme based on EAS compliance and the specifications laid out there. About five of the six are actually UKASaccredited now, as required by DCLG. By June next year, all scheme operators have to be UKASaccredited. As far as I am aware, two of our organisations are going through that process now. By June 2014, we should all be UKASaccredited, as per the DCLG requirements.

Going back to what Phil said about the Electrical Safety Council offering a vote in the Competent Person Schemes two years ago, that was an offer. The problem there was possible liability, as Phil suggested, but the Electrical Safety Council wanted to own data, from what I understand, and the scheme operators were not happy with the Council owning that data.

Philip Buckle: Can I just make clear that the Electrical Safety Council did not want to own the data? One of the concerns I also had, as a consumer charity, is that some of the scheme operators currently on the ElectricSafe Register are not UKASaccredited. That is one of the requirements we, as ESC and ECA, have always stipulated for those that wish to join our register. In terms of size, Emma has mentioned the 80%, which are 34,000 contractors in England and Wales, whereas the six other scheme operators equate to about 260 electrical contractors. From a consumer perspective, I am looking to try to provide consumers with the biggest opportunity to find an electrician, and I think we do that quite well through the Electrical Safety Register.

Martin Bruno: I would like to add to that. The Electrical Safety Council are not scheme operators. They do have an agenda to promote electrical safety to the consumer and also faulty products, and that is quite commendable, but they are not scheme operators. The scheme operators here are ElectricSafe and its five representatives, and Certsure. The Select Committee recommendations were talking about the Competent Person Scheme as it exists now. All we are doing is providing a brand, at our cost at the moment, supporting those schemes.

Can I just tell you that they might have 80% of the industry, but they do not have 100%? Our website promotes 100% of all domestic competent persons, electricians. For your information, over 600 Certsure members have applied to our register, so people are coming to our register, but we need to check them and verify them independently, whereas the other five operators do let us have the data freely to promote on the website.

Emma Clancy: Perhaps to answer Mary’s question, I think it would be regrettable at this point to take that step, having gone through that consultation process and listened to all the stakeholders, including industry, when we believe that we can make significant steps even further to strengthen, from where we are at the moment, within the timeframe given. If the Committee does decide to take that decision and make that recommendation, all we could do would be to urge that it needs to be so much more than a brand; it has to have that firstparty, that firsttouch, verification of someone’s skills and competence, and have built within it that strong consumer protection that is much more than the debate that seems to be emerging today.

Q27 Bob Blackman: This Committee has gone on quite a long and steep learning curve on electrical safety, as you can imagine, and it is quite clear that there is public ignorance of the position of responsibilities and also the Part P scheme. Of the various different aspects that you all have to adhere to, I think it is fair to say, the public in general is not completely ignorant, but is probably not as well informed as it should be. If I was a consumer sitting at home, listening to the four of you, with respect, I would be completely confused now as to what I should do to make sure that my electrical wiring and other services are safe and secure. What message do you think your evidence today to us has given to those consumers? I do not mind who answers first.

Martin Bruno: As part of our DCLG authorisation, and Phil talked about the charity, whatever we earn from the Part P scheme has to be ringfenced. Any surpluses that we make go towards promotion of the schemes. In 2010, I believe, part of the DCLG authorisation was to use those surpluses to promote the schemes. ElectricSafe Register is doing just that: we are using our surpluses to promote those schemes. We are promoting them on behalf of five schemes. We have undertaken a marketing campaign on London Underground. We have roadside campaigns. We are doing surveys and so on. We feel we are being quite successful in reaching a large audience out there to point them towards the direction of the ElectricSafe Register website and search facility.

Yes, if I was a consumer, I would think, "Where do I go to find an electrician? Do I ask my mate next door? Do I ask my family friend, or do I go to one of these unregulated sites, which seem to have more budget to promote?" I am not keen on unregulated sites. We do believe in safety aspects, and our members are very safetyconscious and safetyminded. They are qualified. They go through assessment processes, just like the Electrical Safety Register. We all follow the same process.

Emma Clancy: Just to highlight, our experience has been that actually the best way to promote to consumers is to take a different approach, rather than Tube ads, etc. What we have undertaken is a campaign to reach those who actually procure electrical work in places like housing associations. We have recently run a very big campaign to promote the Electrical Safety Register in that way. Obviously, therefore, we are reaching the people who need protection the most, and we are reaching a lot of people at the same time, as part of our campaigns.

Q28 Bob Blackman: Sorry, the protection there would be for the housing association and their management. What about the people who live in the properties? I am looking at the individual consumer who is thinking, "Who do I go to to get my electrical work done?" Finish your answer and then I will come to it.

Emma Clancy: NICEIC has historically been the strongest brand in the electrical industry, because of their history, and there is 64% consumer recognition for that brand. When Part P came in, a competitive marketplace opened up and there are therefore multiple brands that exist within that. We have always had a history of promoting that, but one of the main things that our family does is give money to the charity.

Q29 Bob Blackman: Can I just cut across you for a moment? There is a lot of debate and discussion in the evidence that you have given to us, from you all, on brands. "Brand" to me is a marketing tool to encourage people to buy your services. There is a difference between that and, say, a kitemark-i.e. a standard to which the work is done- rather than a brand, which encourages me to use that particular company or particular service. Actually, what I want as a consumer is to know that whomever I choose is at least a minimum standard, if not the ideal standard that everyone wants to see. I hope that you will go away from here thinking, "Maybe we should change our rhetoric here on brand as opposed to standard."

Emma Clancy: I completely agree, which is why the Electrical Safety Register is more than a brand. It is more than a directory. It has that consumer protection built in, for all of the reasons that we have already explained. I completely agree with you, and that is also why the charity has worked very hard to promote electrical safety issues irrespective-just people’s responsibilities in terms of their home and the risks that they face. Doing that with a charity, funded by the Electrical Safety Register, is something that I believe consumers respond very positively to.

Philip Buckle: I think it is terrific that people here are seeking to promote electrical safety, because every message out there to the consumer can only help, because we know awareness levels are low, particularly around Part P. ESC has worked hard to raise awareness with consumers; we continue to do so. In terms of talking about budgets that have been expended, this year we spent £980,000 on general awareness of electrical safety. Last year, there was just over £1.1 million to address low awareness issues. We are gradually turning people’s behaviour around and this is not an overnight, quick, slick marketing campaign that you might see on the TV, where people will go out and buy a widget because they think it looks brilliant and sexy. This is about behaviour change, because people do not understand the issues and the consequences around poor electrics.

When we talk about brand, we are talking about an ethos, a set of values and how we expect our contractors to behave with their customers, and equally how the assessment team behaves with our electricians to make sure that they get the right safety messages. The electrical industry is a great intermediate stakeholder for the Electrical Safety Council, because we give them the tools to go out and talk to the customers. Where a customer does not want an RCD because they think the electrician is just trying to make a few more bob, with a little bit of help and some appropriate literature, the customer understands why they should have the RCD fitted. I do not think it is a question of whether it is ElectricSafe or Electrical Safety Register; it is about the right language and the dialogue with the consumer, which we have a lot of, to get over to them the need to think about procuring a competent electrician.

We did a campaign in June, which reached 127 million people. Now, I know there are not 127 million people in the UK, but it depends on the media channels that they look at or listen to, so there are a number of opportunities for each media channel that people may hear. From the feedback we have and the analytics, it was about 127 million people, so we are getting out into the community and we are talking to a lot of vulnerable people, because we use radio quite a lot as an effective means of communicating with the general public.

Q30 Bob Blackman: Moving on, if I am a newly qualified electrician and have done all my tests, do I have to go on two registers or one? What do I do, if I am now setting up as a oneman business, just me by myself? Two registers; one register; what do I do?

Steve Bratt: You have the choice of a number of scheme operators.

Q31 Bob Blackman: What does that say to the consumer about me as an electrician?

Steve Bratt: The consumer should be educated in finding someone competent. The point Phil is making is-

Q32 Bob Blackman: Hang on, the consumer is consuming services; it is the individuals who are marketing to that consumer who have the responsibility of saying, "I’m safe. I’m secure. You can rely on my work," not the other way round, surely.

Steve Bratt: No, and there is an obligation under the Part P rules for scheme operators to do so. Believe it or not, where we are at actually is an improvement post the review, because the seven or eight scheme operators have actually come together. You now have two registers, whereas before there were eight separate ones. Fundamentally, there is a lot of work to be done before we even get to dealing with these two registers about the fundamental message to a consumer about actually using someone competent in the first place.

Where we are at, our research would suggest, is that 10% or less of consumers will find an electrician through an online data source. Ours are two. If you were to search on the web, as I am sure some of you will have done just to see how big an issue this is, you will find not only ours that sound similar, but a multitude of others, primarily private companies, that will sound similar, not to mention of course Checkatrade, Rated People and all of those various.

What we are saying is we have done some work to bring eight down to two; we now need to do some work to work with the consumers to get the message over about using someone competent in the first place. The Competent Person Scheme is something we can do in the mean time, which was our recommendation to the Committee, and our suggestion is you have already put a line in the sand that, in two years’ time, you would want to take a decision on whether a single scheme-and I mean scheme, not brand-is the way forward. I would suggest that that was a very wise thing to do, and we can help with the information to make that decision. If you do a single scheme, as my colleague Emma has said, that really does need to be a scheme, not a directory that pulls schemes together, because that is a recipe for disaster that will fall apart at its first test. What you would want is something robust, single standard, single assessment, single complaints process. I would remind you that there is already a scheme that has 80% of the people on there and 90% of the workload.

Bob Blackman: We have heard that several times. Martin, you wanted to come back.

Martin Bruno: I do not really think he has answered your question, has he?

Bob Blackman: No.

Martin Bruno: I think DCLG has authorised-they talk about seven or eight-six DCLG schemes offering fullscope electricians to the consumer out there. All electricians are assessed under DCLGapproved schemes. These are Government schemes they are being assessed to, nobody else’s, and that is what ElectricSafe operators do. If you were an electrician newly qualified who wanted to join a scheme, there is choice in the market there for you to join. You would look at price; you would look at standards; you would look at the benefits; you would look at promotion. I am going to pay you a lot of money and I want work out of it. That is what an electrician would probably think.

Electricians also have high values in terms of electrical safety. All you have to do is read the forums and listen to people: they expect a high standard of work or installation. We feel that there are still several guys out there-well, persons-who are not registered, not qualified, doing dangerous work. If I was an electrician, I would be looking and asking all those questions. As I said, DCLGauthorised schemes are authorised by DCLG-Government schemes. We are not reinventing anything; we are just feeding them all into one brand.

Q33 Bob Blackman: We are clearly almost certainly going to bring the Minister back to give his view on how things go. I personally thought that getting the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down to talk together was quite a difficult thing to do. It seems that the electrical industry is even more difficult. Why should he not just say, "Okay, I have had enough of this. You cannot agree among yourselves. I am going to make a decision and there will be a single regulatory body. I am going to set it up and, actually, all of you will be enmeshed in this and you can contribute to it, but there will be a single body."? What is to stop him doing that? What is to stop him making that announcement and, whether it is one or two years’ time, or whatever, actually implementing that?

Martin Bruno: Would he really want to go through that process?

Bob Blackman: I am asking what is to stop him. Why should he not do that?

Emma Clancy: There clearly is nothing to stop him doing that. When Part P was reviewed, not very long ago, a whole range of opinions were taken into account and that option was considered. At that time, in a nutshell, it was looked at and compared to Gas Safe. There was an expectation, subject to review later on, that to take that step would increase bureaucracy and potentially cost for small businesses, but most importantly without benefit in terms of health and safety. I do not think that has changed, so I guess that would be something that the Minister would look at again.

Philip Buckle: I just wanted to say that the Minister could go down that route, and for the reasons just outlined, it would be something that I would not like to see happen at this point in time, but there are consumer marketing benefits to the way that the current framework is structured. While we compete, because that is the framework, we do market to the consumer and the messages are very common.

Q34 Chair: What is the advantage to the consumer from having two schemes?

Philip Buckle: They are not two schemes. There is one scheme, but two registers.

Steve Bratt: The benefits are to the contractors.

Q35 Chair: What are the advantages for the consumer, to Mr and Mrs X sitting in their home who want to know whom to employ?

Emma Clancy: The competitive landscape creates a situation-

Chair: What competition for the consumer?

Emma Clancy: Sorry, because there are multiple scheme operators, Certsure’s consumer proposition has to be stronger, because otherwise electrical contractors will not register with me. That creates an environment where we both want to anyway, because of the nature of the organisation, but that factor of choice means that we are constantly looking to drive up our standards and give a better proposition. Contractors will not register with us if consumers do not choose us. In order for consumers to choose us-

Q36 Chair: It might make it more difficult to register. If your standards go up, they might go somewhere else.

Philip Buckle: That is the electrician’s choice.

Q37 Chair: There is no competition for the consumer out there. It is nothing to do with that at all, is it? There is no benefit to them at all.

Philip Buckle: I disagree. The consumer has a freedom of choice and it is up to us to educate the consumer, so that they understand how to go about procuring an electrician, so they do not go to these directories that sit out there unregulated that there are plenty of.

Emma Clancy: The same situation exists in glazing and the other Competent Person Schemes. That would also need to be looked at.

Philip Buckle: It is also about liability for complaints, Chair.

Q38 Bob Blackman: With due respect, you say there is a difference. Well, the worstcase scenario for glazing is it might fall out. The worstcase scenario for electrical things will cause a fire, death and destruction, so we are talking about different elements here. There is a fundamental safety issue that I am concerned about.

Emma Clancy: Yes, absolutely.

Martin Bruno: Both organisations do promote the safety issue. If you look at our website, we promote safety. We also try to put in plain English what consumers would expect to see from an electrician.

Q39 Bob Blackman: What we are all struggling with, the key issue, is why you cannot just bury your differences, come up with a single register that has the same terms and conditions-whatever they are-exactly the same terms and conditions, and then everyone will be happy. Then it is the case that everyone knows that, whichever registered individual on that register is chosen, they will be adhering to the common standards, and I can be safe. If someone is not on that register, you are taking a risk. They may be competent people, but it is going to be a risk. What is stopping you?

Martin Bruno: We have done that.

Bob Blackman: You have not. You have two separate registers, which you have published days apart.

Martin Bruno: We have produced a register or brand, whatever you want to call it-

Q40 Bob Blackman: Do not call it a "brand". A brand is marketing to individuals or companies. I do not have a problem with you marketing. I think that is absolutely right. What I am talking about is a register that says, "If someone is on this register, I am going to get safe, secure work that I can rely upon. The people doing it are at a required standard. If they fail to do the work properly, they will be struck off and they will not be allowed to practise anymore. Equally, their work is inspected on occasional terms to make sure that they are competent." All those sorts of things I expect to see from a register. I do not see why it is so complicated that you cannot have one register to do it.

Chair: Then you can have a common brand that the public then can recognise that gives them all that.

Philip Buckle: Chair, the original intent through the letters that we wrote to you jointly was that we would develop that common mark through the Competent Persons Forum activity.

Q41 Chair: It is not just the brand. The brand sits on top of the common arrangement.

Philip Buckle: That would be the common mark and then the various schemes would have their own logos. If an electrician is with NAPIT, they would want to show their NAPIT logo.

Chair: I think we are probably getting to the end of this conversation. All I would say is the only thing I have heard you agree about this afternoon is that you do not want a mandatory scheme; that is all you have common agreement on between you. You have disagreed about each of the schemes. You have said what is wrong with them. You have said why your scheme is right and why you cannot come together. All you do not want the Government to do is to act to bring in a mandatory scheme. I am just thinking that perhaps the threat of a mandatory scheme from the Government is about the only thing that would get you all together. Okay, shall we leave it there? We will have the Minister in shortly. Thank you.

Prepared 9th September 2013