Thursday, September 10, 2020


Long-term ally of specialist engineering contractors in the construction industry, Lord Martin O’Neill of Clackmannan died recently, at the age of 75.

Lord O’Neill served as Labour Member of Parliament for 26 years representing the old industrial towns and villages of Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire and for a time was Shadow Secretary of State for Defence in Neil Kinnock’s shadow cabinet.  He was made a life peer on his retirement from the House of Commons in 2005. 

But it was as Chair of the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee during 1995-2005 that he began to develop his championship of, and advocacy for, the importance of equitable payment terms in the industry, with the treatment of building services engineering contractors being a particular focus.  He was president of the Nuclear Industry Association, president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors (SEC) Group and chair of the Strategic Forum for Construction. In that role, he was responsible for leading the industry’s interface with Government.

It was through the support given by the Building Services Engineering Association to the SEC Group that the Association developed a close personal link with Lord O’Neill, appointing him in 2008 as the independent chair of the Building Services Engineering Employment Agency Alliance.

Employers were conscious that the Association had a relationship with directly employed personnel through the collective agreements to which the Association is party, but this did not encompass self-employed personnel: this was considered a gap which needed plugging in light of the increasing scale of self-employment and agency working.

By the end of its first year of existence, membership of the Alliance comprised 15 agencies, accounting for almost 20,000 monthly lettings of skilled personnel to contractors and service providers across the building services engineering sector.

Lord O’Neill chaired the regular meetings of the Agency Alliance’s Management Committee, membership of which comprised equal numbers of BESA members and representatives of the agency community, as well as the Alliance’s annual general meetings, which took the form of industry conferences covering a wide range of topics of particular interest to employment businesses.

Peter Rimmer, the Association’s former Director of Employment Affairs and Skills, said ‘Working with Lord O’Neill on the establishment and development of the Agency Alliance was a huge privilege’. 

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