Toughen up on 'incompetent' electricians, say MPs

Electrician

Tougher rules are needed to ensure electricians have enough training to work on people's homes without putting them in danger, MPs have warned.

Rules in England state that people deemed "competent" by industry bodies can sign off work as safe and legal.

But the Communities and Local Government Committee said some had only a few weeks' training and called enforcement of rules "at best patchy".

The government said it would consider the findings "carefully".

In 2005, the Labour government brought most electrical work in the home under the system of building regulations, designed to ensure safety standards.

'Five-week wonder'

It was decided that only those deemed "competent persons" by a range of government-approved competent persons schemes should be able to hand customers certificates to show work was of good quality and legal.

The committee said safety overall had risen since 2005, but it raised concerns about the standards in place, saying some of those judged to be a "competent person" were signing off more than 3,400 competency notifications a year.

Start Quote

Somebody whose only electrical qualification is that they have attended a five-week training course simply should not be re-wiring houses”

End Quote Clive Betts MP

This led to questions over how much scrutiny of the work was going on.

In some cases, the MPs were told, people stood "as much chance of getting a competent person as asking a bloke down the pub to do the job".

The committee received evidence that some workers had done no more than take a "two-hour open book exam" before carrying out domestic electrical work, while others had taken internet-advertised "five-week wonder" courses.

Added to this, only 14% of the population were even aware of the system, fewer than a third of the number who knew about a similar scheme for gas fitters.

The committee recommended that, within five years, no-one should be allowed to carry out the electrical work covered by building regulations without an NVQ Level III or equivalent qualification and "a significant period of supervised on-the-job training".

A limit should be set on the number of cases each "competent person" could be responsible for approving, it added.

Resources call

Committee chairman Labour MP Clive Betts said: "Somebody whose only electrical qualification is that they have attended a five-week training course simply should not be re-wiring houses. Yet this is what we were told is happening.

"The person in the home wants to know that the person arriving on the doorstep is a qualified electrician.

"The current system does not guarantee this. Rather, it can brand the incompetent as competent."

Mr Betts called for councils to be given the resources to enforce the regulations.

Communities minister Stephen Williams said: "I'm pleased that the committee recognises the improvements since the building regulations covering electrical safety were introduced but there is always more work to be done to strike the right balance and we will consider the report's recommendations carefully, especially as part of our review of the impact of changes we've made to reduce unnecessary red tape in this area."

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    11:07: Michael Gove's watch House of Commons Parliament
    Michael Gove in Downing Street

    Angela Eagle, who has presumably heard it from reliable sources, recounts an unfortunate incident during Cabinet. She says proceedings were interrupted by Michael Gove's smart watch as it played "one of Beyonce's latest hits". Eagle then turns this into a dig at Gove's absence from the Commons chamber. She gets a big laugh as she wraps up by saying dryly: "Any watch which is smart enough to play Beyonce can surely tell him when business questions is."

     
  74.  
    11:05: Angela Eagle v William Hague House of Commons Parliament
    Angela Eagle in the Commons

    A recap of business questions in the Commons. It began with shadow leader of the House Angela Eagle reviewing the week:

    • On plain packaging, she suggests the government's last-gasp U-turn to support the measure occurred because ministers realised the Conservatives' election adviser and lobbyist "Lynton Crosby wasn't looking"
    • On the NHS, Eagle highlights "overstretched hospitals" and says "the Tories' pledge to protect the NHS is now in tatters".
    • On the Lib Dems, Eagle highlights Baroness Kramer's unfortunate gaffe while on a visit to Taipei. "She gave the city's mayor a watch, which is taboo in local culture because it suggests the recipient's time is running out. She should have given it to her party leader."
     
  75.  
    @BBCNormanS Norman Smith, BBC News Assistant Political Editor

    tweets: Ed Miliband says case for Mansion Tax getting "stronger and stronger"

     
  76.  
    11:04: Voter registration
    Voting in the 2010 general election

    Labour has already claimed changes to the way voters get their names on the electoral roll mean a million fewer people are registered for the general election. Now the leader of the party's Local Government Association group has urged parliament to intervene. Cllr Jim McMahon told local government paper the MJ that councils had "been asked to do the impossible by the [Electoral] Commission". And he warned: "Whilst the current political focus is on the level of voter registration amongst students for the General Election in May 2015, the real democratic crisis will come in December 2015 when potentially millions of voters will be removed from the electoral register."

     
  77.  
    11:02: Broadcasters on the TV debates

    The BBC's Director General Tony Hall says: "We would not be fulfilling our obligations of impartiality to the voters of Northern Ireland if we were to invite one of the Northern Ireland parties but not all the others, which also have substantial support in Northern Ireland."

    Both the BBC and UTV plan dedicated debates in Northern Ireland involving all the larger parties there. The broadcasters are also reiterating that the debates will go ahead even if any of the leaders refuse to participate.

     
  78.  
    11:00: Breaking News: TV debates

    The BBC, Sky and ITN confirm they will not be inviting Northern Ireland's DUP Party to take part in the main televised debates ahead of the general election. The broadcasters are proposing three debates - one between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, and two adding Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, UKIP, the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru. The DUP had demanded to be included, but in a joint statement the broadcasters say allowing only one of the Northern Ireland parties to take part "would be unfair and discriminatory".

     
  79.  
    10:59: Clegg's 'Monster Raving Loony' jibe
    Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood

    On his LBC phone-in earlier, Nick Clegg was less than complimentary about the way his coalition partner David Cameron is approaching the proposed TV debates. Referring to the PM's calls for the Green Party, then the DUP, to be included, Mr Clegg said: "I suspect next week he will be worried about the fate of the Monster Raving Loony Party." Here's the full story of his comments.

     
  80.  
    10:43: Fracking fallout House of Commons Parliament

    Labour is going on the offensive on fracking in the Commons, as Angela Eagle criticises the government for not being open enough about its shale gas policy. Environment secretary Liz Truss holds the line: "Fracking has a huge potential to provide jobs and growth and also lower our energy costs, and that is why it's so important that we proceed with this vital technology," she says. The exchanges follow Lib Dem Tessa Munt's resignation over the issue earlier this week.

     
  81.  
    10:26: Election battlegrounds
    election map

    We may not know who will win the next general election but we do know which parts of the country will determine the fates of the political parties. The killing grounds in any general election can be found among that minority of parliamentary constituencies - marginal seats - with a history of being won or lost by parties. Here is a guide to the political battlegrounds of the 2015 general election.

     
  82.  
    10:05: Schools' record defended BBC News Channel

    Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has defended the government's record on schools. Her comments come as new league tables show a doubling in the number of schools where less than 40% of pupils fail to get five good GCSEs, including maths and English. Speaking on the BBC News Channel, Mrs Morgan said the results reflected changes made to ensure academic standards were as rigorous as possible. More students, she said, were getting the core academic qualifications.

     
  83.  
    10:03: Commons clashes over food poverty House of Commons Parliament

    It's environment, food and rural affairs questions in the Commons, where shadow food minister Huw Irranca-Davies says one million people in Britain are going hungry while relying on food aid. He says the government is taking Britain back to the 1930s in terms of spending and attacks the "staggering complacency" of the coalition. Minister George Eustice, replying, says the government has put 1.7 million people back into work and has taken three million people out of having to pay income tax. He points out Labour's energy policy would have frozen prices which have subsequently fallen.

     
  84.  
    Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: Prison sexual assault data published for first time shows 170 cases in 2013 - highest on record as are violent incidents in yr to Sep 2014

     
  85.  
    09:52: Social capital

    The Office for National Statistics has just released its first ever analysis of 'social capital'. This might sound vague but contains some findings politicians might want to bear in mind as they debate crime, care and charity issues in the election campaign...

    • 65% of people in Britain thought people in their neighbourhood could be trusted
    • 19% of people in the UK reported looking after or giving special help to someone sick, disabled or elderly in 2012/13
    • 19% of people had given unpaid help or worked as a volunteer in a local, national or international organisation or charity in the last 12 months in 2012/13

    The study also found that 49% of people in the UK reported being "very or quite interested in politics" in 2012/13. It's much more interesting in 2014/15, of course.

     
  86.  
    09:43: UKIP defence plans Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News
    Nigel Farage

    The BBC's Robin Brant says UKIP is set to make defence spending a top priority as the party prepares its manifesto. It looks likely that UKIP will be the only Westminster-based party going into the election pledging to spend more on the UK's armed forces. But, as Robin also reveals, there are internal tensions over this issue.

     
  87.  
    09:42: School league tables

    More on the school league table results: This year 330 English secondary schools - up from 154 - failed to get 40% or more of their pupils attaining five good GCSEs, including maths and English. This rise comes after ministers toughened exams and banned re-sits and some vocational qualifications from school performance tables.

    Meanwhile, renowned schools such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester and St Paul's Boys' - among scores of other top private schools - have ended up bottom of the tables.

    Our online story has a map showing school performance in local areas.

    Map
     
  88.  
    09:41: Clegg on PMQs LBC
    David Cameron in PMQs

    Deputy PM Nick Clegg has spent countless PMQs sat next to David Cameron - and has now admitted his expression of concentration is one of boredom, not thoughtful concentration. He jokingly tells LBC presenter Nick Ferrari that he ought to consider finding other ways to amuse himself in the remaining sessions before the election: a book? Yes, Clegg says, adding "Danny Alexander tells me Candy Crush is a great game. I could help with my children's homework."

    The Lib Dem leader - who his advisers are determined to position as an anti-establishment figure despite five years in government - adds, in serious mode: "I think it has descended into the most facile yah-boo kind of politics. The only kind of people who get excited about it are the people in the Westminster village."

     
  89.  
    @PickardJE Jim Pickard

    tweets: Labour aide re Blairite critics: "Get on and help win the election or you can manoeuvre for personal position and caress your own vanity."

     
  90.  
    09:36: Clegg on the TV debates LBC
    Nick Clegg on LBC

    Mr Clegg shrugs off David Cameron's suggestion that the Lib Dems are troublemaking over the TV debates. The blame game, he says, is becoming "ludicrous". He then outlines a carefully-crafted argument about why only those parties which "run things" should feature - and not parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. "Just imagine what it's going to be like for the viewing public: by the time everyone's done their one-minute introduction the whole nation will have switched over to Coronation Street."

     
  91.  
    09:32: Breaking News

    Some breaking news now as secondary school performance tables for 2013-14 are published for England. There's controversy over this year's set of data, as the number of secondary schools in England deemed to be underperforming has doubled in a year. It follows confusion over the recognition of the International GCSE qualification.

     
  92.  
    Clegg on Katie Price LBC
    Katie Price

    Nick Clegg is refusing to let the controversy over Katie Price's son undermine his support for the universal nature of support for children with disabilities. Some have suggested the model, rather than the taxpayer, should pay for her son Harvey's treatment. But Clegg doesn't think a case like this changes anything.

    "I would be pretty reluctant to say on the facts of this individual case we therefore throw out the idea of universally treating all children with disabilities with the same kind of compassion and support," he says.

     
  93.  
    @LBC LBC Radio

    tweets: Nick Ferrari asks whether the state should be paying for the transfer of Katie Price's disabled son http://l-bc.co/C1egg #CallClegg

    and

    tweets: Clegg says it's down to the local authority to decide that - even if Katie Price has £30m in the bank http://l-bc.co/C1egg #CallClegg

     
  94.  
    09:24: Tory leadership poll

    In a YouGov poll for the Times (pay wall), London Mayor, Boris Johnson, is edging ahead of five other Tory politicians in a poll on whether they would make a good party leader. YouGov polled 1,655 people on January 27 and 28, with respondents rating the politicians as a "Good leader", "Not a good leader", "Unsure" or "Don't know enough about the person". The other "candidates" are George Osborne, Theresa May, Sajid Javid, Jermey Hunt and Liz Truss.

     
  95.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome blog

    tweets: .@nick_clegg - "I v much hope nurses would not feel in any way discouraged or intimidated from coming forward" to report NHS failings #LBC

     
  96.  
    The Spectator

    tweets: Europe's crisis is Cameron's opportunity, says @JGForsyth. specc.ie/1yAO3hF

    Spectator cartoon
     
  97.  
    09:02: Murray moments

    A quick look at this Twitter conversation and it's clear some Scottish politicians would much rather watch this morning's Andy Murray match than prepare for Scottish First Minister's Questions.

     
  98.  
    08:56: Benefit fraud plans
    money

    The maximum administrative penalty for benefit fraud that can be offered as an alternative to prosecution could be doubled under government proposals. The House of Commons is going to be asked to approve plans to increase the maximum fine from £2,000 to £5,000. The government says £1.2bn a year is lost to benefit fraud, and that those who commit the crime should "pay a heavy price".

     
  99.  
    08:55: Cost of care BBC Radio 4

    Care minister Norman Lamb is calling on the insurance industry to do more to encourage people to plan ahead for their care needs in old age. His call comes after a BBC investigation found seventeen leading insurance companies currently had no plans to offer suitable policies. Next year, the government will introduce a new £72,000 cap on an individual's care costs and it had been hoped insurance companies would offer policies allowing people to insure themselves for that amount well in advance of any need. Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Lamb said the insurance industry had to "step up to the plate". It had a responsibility, he said, to ensure that the right products were available.

     
  100.  
    House of Commons

    tweets: Commons Chamber sits from 9.30am starting with #Environment, #Food & Rural Affairs Questions. Watch live http://goo.gl/SKhZyE @DefraGovUK

     

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