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'Fears' over industry tsunami aid

The minister for construction, Nigel Griffiths, has 'expressed fears' about the industry's response to the Boxing Day tsunami.

In a document seen by the AJ, the Construction Industry Council's (CIC) chief executive Graham Watts describes a conference call he had with Griffiths about the matching of available skills with those in the relief effort.

Watts says in the note to CIC members that Griffiths questioned the construction industry's response to the tsunami, expressing a concern that offers of help were unlikely to be fed through the best 'conduit'.

'I received a telephone call from Nigel Griffiths, the minister for construction, this afternoon following on from a meeting he had held with representatives of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors,' Watts says in the document.

'[Griffiths was] asking about the central coordination of the response from the UK construction industry and expressing his fears that offers of help and assistance might not necessarily be fed through the best-placed conduits to be useful.

'[He was also concerned that] organisations with the necessary available expertise to provide disaster-relief assistance were not necessarily being matched up with the expert bodies- capable of delivery where help is needed,' Watts' document continues.

Watts went on to say that the CIC is confident sufficient work is being carried out by both the British Consultants and Construction Bureau (BCCB) and the Register for Engineers in Disaster Relief (RedR).

But RedR's Karen Wagstaff supported the minister's concern. 'We do not work with them [the CIC],' she said. ' We only work with non-governmental organisations. We have been recruiting shelter experts, but we have not heard from the CIC.'

The minister's comments also won the support of the BCCB's director for Asia Pacific, Douglas Kerr. He said that there were genuine concerns about the coordination effort.

'There is an overwhelming desire to help from the construction industry, but I think it is fair to say there has not been a lot of coordination,' he said.

'I know that a number of our members are helping out over there,' Kerr added. 'But the BCCB is not in the business of channelling these kinds of services to the areas where they are needed.'

by Ed Dorrell

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