HC Deb 28 February 2001 vol 363 cc688-9W
Mr. Love

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress is being made with the Quality Mark scheme; and if he will make a statement. [151886]

Mr. Raynsford

In January a number of measures were put in place to encourage builders to join the Quality Mark (QM) pilot scheme in Birmingham and Somerset. Among these were a time limited discount on the joining fee, joint working with several leading trade associations and commercial organisations, to develop ways of helping their members and sub-contractors achieve the QM standard and easier ways of obtaining the mandatory warranty cover. I am pleased to say these efforts are now beginning to pay off and the number of companies in the two pilot areas now wishing to join the QM has increased from around 40 to over 275. I expect more companies to apply to join the QM in the weeks and months ahead.

Most of these companies should complete the assessment process and attain the QM in the next two-three months. As a result of this, I am able to announce today that subject to satisfactory progress with the assessment process, we shall move to the second stage of the pilot programme by opening the QM to consumers on 22 May. The launch will involve the unveiling of the QM logo and involve a major public information campaign in the pilot areas, co-ordinated with our partners, to alert the public to the QM and the benefits of using QM builders. They will be able to find the names of QM builders and tradesmen through a national call centre of via the Internet.

Householders in the two pilot areas of Birmingham and Somerset will then be able, through this Government-backed scheme, be able to find a reputable builder to do a good job for a fair price. By using a QM builder they will have the comfort of knowing that the company has been subject to a rigorous and independent inspection, including an on-site inspection of their work, will work to a QM code of good practice and give a free six-year warranty on their work. The opening of the QM scheme to the public in this way is a major step forward in the fight against disreputable builders and fulfils a major commitment by this Government to introduce measures to empower consumers and promote reputable companies.

After six months there will be a review of how well the scheme has worked to see what lessons can be learned. This will involve all aspects of the scheme, including how easy it is for the public to locate a QM builder. Following further consultation with QM builders, our partners, the industry and consumers a decision will then be made about whether any modifications need to be made to the scheme and how to extend it to the rest of the country.

Consumers in this country have for too long been at the mercy of disreputable builders and tradesmen. But there are many reputable builders willing and able to do a good job for a fair price. The QM pilot scheme is a first step towards a national scheme to link consumers and reputable builders. I hope that more builders will recognise the benefits of the QM and apply to join now.