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Part P: have we got it right or is it time for a change?

NAPIT Chief Executive, John Andrews, offers EPA his views on the much-criticised Part P and suggests some ways to improve how it operates. It's a contentious issue, and as my last article proved, people have differing views on what needs to be done, so e-mail with your thoughts on what John Andrews has to say:

John Andrews

Part P of the Building Regulations has now been with us for four years and has had its fair share of criticism from both inside and outside the industry.

Before I start, I must point out that I am fully behind a regulated Electrical Industry, not just from the lofty perspective that regulation will eventually raise standards and improve safety for both Electricians and the general public, but also from a commercial perspective.

Regulated industries, if enforced properly, minimises undermining from the unskilled, tend to attract the higher salaries and hence attract better quality entrants into the industry. I feel that regulation should not be viewed from the perspective of cost, but primarily from that of its benefit.

The main area for criticism from many of the thousands of registered ‘Competent Persons’ is the feeling that ‘sacrifices’ have made in registering are largely being wasted by the Government’s lack of enforcement and the lack of public awareness.

In my view, this criticism should be aimed primarily at central Government, because they have amended the Building Regulations to include Part P, but left the Local Authority emasculated with very poor enforcement powers or flexibility to make it work effectively.

Then, to compound this original fundamental failing, when Part P was amended in April 2006, the situation was made worse by dropping the specific requirement for Quality Assurance i.e. to Inspect & Test. Plus, in paragraph 1.26, the Local Authorities have been specifically prevented from charging extra to arrange the inspection of those Electrical Installations that have not been undertaken by a registered Competent Person – i.e. unable to charge the very people who desperately need an Inspection doing.

The Local Authorities are also required to decide on whether unregistered people are competent to undertake the work or not – a ludicrous situation for a Building Control Officer to find themselves in and completely unjustifiable. What experience do Building Control Officers have in assessing the competence of people in Electrical Installation Skills?

There is however a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Government has proposed two regulatory changes and two new initiatives developed by NAPIT and the other Competent Person Electrical Scheme Operators.

The two new regulatory changes are:

The Government has proposed to increase the period during which local authorities can bring a prosecution for non-compliance with the Building Regulations from 6 months to 2 years after the completion of work.

The new Regulatory Sanctions and Enforcement Act, will introduce new penalties - a power for local authorities to prohibit an installer continuing to work if their work is unsafe and a power to fine installers not complying without the need to go to court.

These powers are not fully in force yet, but the Government is currently working on legislation in order to bring them comprehensively into Statute in 2009 and both are expected to make it easier to target the unregistered people and non-compliance.

The two new initiatives that have been introduced are:

A new set of Report Forms have been developed by NAPIT and LABC for use by all Local Authorities which are designed to be used where work has been carried out by a DIYer or an unregistered Electrician.

With this scheme a member of a Competent Person Scheme acting as an Electrical Inspector of the Local Authority carries out an inspection of the installation, both at First Fix and at Second Fix.

Occasionally, where they have sufficient skills and competence, the Local Authority Building Control Officer may undertake the First Fix inspection, but the Second Fix Inspection and Test will always be undertaken by a Registered Electrician.

The Registered Electrician must be of the highest technical standard and must be independent of the installation they are inspecting both pre and post inspection and cannot issue an Electrical Certificate, but must submit the Electrical Report produced to the Local Authority along with their opinion on the standard of the work. The Local Authority can then use this information to issue a Completion Certificate (or not) for the installation.

A confidential Helpline has been set up between the Competent Person Scheme Operators and the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) departments, where scheme operators who find any work that is being carried out illegally can inform the LABC who in turn will notify the relevant Local authority to monitor the outcome. These regulatory changes and initiatives identify that several bodies are currently trying to address some of the concerns raised of the lack of enforcement of Part P.

Finally, a major ‘flaw’ in the current Part P model is that the legal definition of a Competent Person can not only be an ‘individual’ but also an ‘enterprise’ (company). I do not agree that the legal definition of a Competent Person as an ‘enterprise’ has any place in the Domestic sector. I think that in the Part P context, it should always mean an individual and the individual who is deemed to be the Competent Person should be person who actually undertakes and signs off the work. In my opinion, to work on Electrical systems, we should have a system similar to that in the gas industry and the definition of Competence when referring to Part P MUST always be based upon an Individual, never an ‘enterprise’.

In the Domestic sector, it is usual for trades people to work alone and unsupervised, so for Part P a model that is based upon supervision for safety is deeply flawed and I feel it has more to do with minimising cost than safety.

I hope that you have found this article of interest and I look forward to your comments.

Kind regards


John Andrews B.Sc. MIoD
Chief Executive – The NAPIT Group

Your Comments:


I trained as an electrician 50 years ago before leaving to go into industry. I read the variety of comments and find it interesting to compare them with my thoughts two years ago when I read the hypocrytical verbiage from John Prescott at the time. Part P has nothing to do with electrical safety; it is to allow insurance companies to have someone to sue when something goes wrong. This is why the competent person must be an enterprise which will carry insurance. I am one of the people who buy bits and pieces from B&Q to do odd jobs for friends and family; this is not PENNY PINCHING it is saving hundreds if not thousands of pounds. Doing odd jobs around the house is not rocket science; once you have learned the basic skills involved it is still possible to apply this knowledge 50 years later. This is a different argument to wiring a complete house or a block of flats or even a power station. Part of this discussion is about who is QUALIFIED and who is AUTHORISED; one is technical and one is bureaucratic. In industry we have had to endure the hypocracy surrounding such trivialities as fitting a 13 amp plug to equipment. We are expected to hand such a trivial task to someone who is less technically qualified but is of course AUTHORISED. Behind this hypocracy is the desire to reduce insurance costs; nothing to do with safety. A far more prominent aspect of companies reducing insurance costs is relating to smoking in buildings; years ago companies had no interest in the health of their employees until they discovered that they could pay less insurance if the chucked the smokers outside.

If the electrical contracting industry wants to inprove the standards of the industry then perhaps they should apply some ancient wisdom PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF. There is not point in waiting for another generation of John Prescotts to meddle in things they dont understand.

James Hudson



Part P is a poorly thought out, poorly implemented, badly communicated, misunderstood & frequently ignored piece of legislation that has principally caused confusion. It’s also spawned a new breed of trade associations and training providers – some of whom are sub standard to say the least.

Sadly any kitchen fitter, plumber, or builder can go on a two day course and come out with the self belief that they are now qualified electrically. This devalues the City & Guilds standards that kept the standards in Britain so high for so long and it puts two fingers up to every properly qualified apprenticeship time served C&G electrician.

Further more its added unnecessary costs. Many of the contractors in the UK are small businesses, lots of whom already belonged to either the NIC or the ECA and of course already paid the associated membership costs. Then they find that have to pay some more to train to Part P standards and to pay a bit more to join a new club if they want to continue with domestic work! And why is that? Because one day they might have to add an extra socket in a kitchen, (scary prospect that for a qualified man) or put a light in a bathroom Noooo! I hear you scream not in a bathroom PLEEEAAASSEE it’s so frightening.

Whereas if you actually work in industry or commercial installations on dangerous machinery at higher voltages no such additional scrutiny or qualifications appear necessary.

Psst anyone in our industry want to know a secret? There are kitchens in commercial and industrial properties too! So, there’s somewhere you can practice until you have overcome your fear and you are ready to enter the highly dangerous arena of the domestic installation.

My own personal experience? Well I am a time served apprenticeship trained electrician, I’ve been in the electrical installation industry for 35 years now during which time I’ve worked for installers and the top installation equipment manufacturers. I’ve personally achieved 3 product design patents however I have been “off the tools” for a sufficiently long time to be considered as incapable of working on electrical installations in a kitchen or a bathroom. So what do I do? Do I get my school caretaker brother in law to install stuff for me because he’s been on a 2 day part P course or do I rely on my 35 years experience and do it my self?

I think you all know the answer to that one


Mike Cash



I would just like to add my two pence worth to NAPIT's proposals to amend Part P.

Firstly they are ignoring the original idea that Part P membership should be voluntary. That is the reason we have local authority inspections. NAPIT is attempting to make it compulsory, by making the local authority route prohibitively expensive. Though there is a great danger that by doing so more jobs will not be notified
at all.

Most of my work is industrial therefore forking out over £500 to some Part P cartel for the sake of fitting the odd few domestic sockets is out of the question. Also, I take exception to being put in the same category as some Diy-er. This is at the least insulting. Are they trying to say if your not a Part P registered house basher you're not a competent electrician. Don't City & Guilds stand for anything these days?

Then there's their proposal that a Part P registered electrician test & inspect the installation. Apart from the potential for disputes i.e. Having your competition inspecting your work there is also the question of liability having inspected such work is your inspector now liable for any defects.

While the local authorities need someone to test & inspect installations, when the installer is a Diy-er, or can't issue their own EIC, he or she should be neutral. i.e. fully employed by the local authority, & not some competing firm working on the local authority's behalf.

Part P also needs to address the public deception of the 1 week wonders or as they refer to them limited scope electricians. Personally I think the idea is a joke. You're either an electrician or your not these guys are at best Diy-ers with a bit of training. The public should be made aware of their limited knowledge. At the moment all they see is Part P registered, implying they are qualified electricians, yet they can sign off their work. If this isn't a case of buying qualifications, what is?

Finally the one part I agree with. The competent person should mean an individual & not a company. Under the present system a company need only employ one competent person to be Part P approved the rest of the staff can be cowboys.

R Bowser



Just a few comments your Part P article as householder and an electronic engineer (so hopefully I should understand the theory and practice). I don't want to upset too many as I feel that in theory Part P is a nice idea, much like Poll tax was, should in theory save lives, but in practice is un-implementable and unenforceable in its current form. Did not someone raise a question in Parliament about how many lives Part P had saved ? Had it gone up from the pre Part P of 6 deaths per year to 18 ?

Personally I think all the messing around with Part P is rather like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, all these "high and mighty" organisations busily rearranging the "deck chairs" to suit their own interests (and their members) but in the end the inevitable is going to happen. It doesn't matter how much you re-arrange the deckchairs, re-organise, re-implement, change the legislation etc in the end the end it is just going to be ignored, as it will always be easier and cheaper to ignore.

I have a feeling also, that the people who passed the regulations didn't realise the number of house owners who would be "DIY"ing in the restricted areas (especially kitchen) and as well as the vast number of other professional (and not so professional) trades people that would fall into the regulations. Trades people I have encountered that can no longer do electrical work, where once they could, are, "handy men", tilers, kitchen fitters, floor fitters, plumbers, boiler repair specialists, painters and even kitchen appliance delivery men can no longer connect an appliance as I have since found out. I am well aware how Part P came about from electrocution of a diagonally routed wire in a kitchen and understand what Part P was attempting to achieve.

Yes I know the people that passed the legislation where probably quite honourable and probably did surveys and are probably continuing to do surveys, but do you think that any DIY'er, householder or a non Part P capable tradesman is going to officially admit that they have not followed the current Part P rules?

What is the point in passing legislation that is widely ignored and virtually impossible to police. I had a quick whip round amongst my friends the other weekend and out of the 6 householders present, all 6 had done work themselves in the Part P notifiable restricted areas (mostly kitchen) and were either completely unaware of Part P or if aware, just ignored it, as would cost money for absolutely no benefit to them. Most wiring modifications were relatively straight forward adding tumble drier fused spur, plinth heater, fitting of new kitchen lighting, fitting a sink macerator & water softener. Most complicated work done was adding an RCBO to existing consumer unit for an outside lighting circuit. All bits bought from B&Q or electrical wholesalers.

People compare Part P to Corgi and gas work, but they are completely different. DIY'ers luckily can still work on gas if they are "competent", thus allowing people to say service their own gas boilers. I think this was a clever move by Corgi, as they could have ended up making it illegal for a homeowner to work their own boiler, but how do you know "behind the closed doors" what is going on and even more importantly enforce it ? For me in all my years of DIY and house ownership (20 years odd) I have not needed to do any gas work (OK a boiler service), though I have lost count on the number of reels of 2.5mm twin and earth that has been added to my houses via various DIY jobs.

My own experiences of Part P, as a house owner, have not been very positive. Below are my observations in my house and friends houses, since Part P came into force:

- A friend had the 2.5mm twin and earth mains cable looping from his conservatory (from a 13A plug !!!) to garden shed via wooden fence, as fitted when he bought the house. He had it re-done properly with separate consumer unit + RCD, buried armoured cable and circuit breakers. All professionally done, correct parts chosen however....he was offered two prices one with full Part P, building control notification etc and another "just electrically tested" but £150 cheaper. He obviously chose the £150 cheaper. Reason is the local handyman who did the wiring is not Part P certified, but was capable of implementing and testing to BS7671 (and had the correct equipment to do it) but doesn't do Part P certification, as not worth his time and money doing the relevant training course, just for the odd time he does electrical work.

- Friend fitted an £80 electrical plinth heater to his kitchen spurred off the kitchen ring. Local authority want £300 inspect, test and certify. That never happened.

- Same friend came to sell house, ticked the box in sellers pack that yes, notifiable work had been done in the kitchen. Solicitor wrote saying he should supply the relevant Part P certificate (or test certificate) . My mate said he hadn't got one, buyer & solicitor accepted that and house still went through no problem. So basically no Part P does not prevent sale of a house, I have heard this happening elsewhere, buyers are more interested in location, the view, the garden, the local schools and lack of Part P is not going to stop them. One friend tried to pass the electrical test certification cost, for a tumble drier, to the buyer (cost £175), the buyer decided not to have this but still bought the house anyway.

- I had a new kitchen fitted, I have a Part P certificate for the wiring, the fitter had done a 5 day course so could issue a Part P certificate, he was very proud of this point. Previously he had employed an electrician to do the wiring, but now he could do it himself. Doesn't mean it was good. Had a couple of issues:
- After a week or two the oven failed with "low voltage warning". Does help if you tighten the screws up connector block !!
- Some of the wires are certainly no longer 90° vertical, where sockets have been moved, as I have found out using my cable detector, before I was about to nail in picture hooks.
- All the Part P certificate says the wiring changes are "Ad aditional circkuit". Amazing 3 spelling mistakes in 3 words. Doesn't really help in what was added and what was changed. I don't doubt the electrical safety or his competence in undertaking the testing, he knew what he was doing, he had done the 5 day course as he kept reminding me !!!
- He also issued a Part P certificate on my electrical work, I finalised the fitting of under-floor heating as the tiler was no longer allowed to connect it up, despite having the relevant test gear and had done for years and years before Part P. I thought as the Part P issuer did not do the wiring or the design he could not issue a Part P, only an electrical test certificate ?
- The tiler fitted underfloor heating and left tails hanging out the wall, as he had to done many times now, for the house owner to hire an electrician to connect or in 99% of cases the house owner connect up. Pre Part P he would have connected it up, tested and written out a test certificate himself, but not allowed to do that now (actually not quite true he could issue a test certificate, but not valid in terms of building control and Part P).
- My local authority building control have not been informed as the fitter was not aware he had to inform (and pay) the building control for each Part P he issued. My building control want £62 per certificate from me to do this.

- A friend encountered and issue in getting a Part P for his new kitchen where the kitchen fitter moved a cooker isolating switch, fitted by the electrician, as it was in the wrong place. The electrician refused to issue a Part P as the wiring was no longer his own work. It was finally settled and Part P issued, but no one told the local authority building control as electrician was hired by the kitchen fitter and electrician says it is kitchen fitters responsibility (as the hirer) to inform local authority. Currently my friend has the Part P certificate and was, until recently, completely unaware building control should have been informed.

- I have seen a tumble drier connected to an extension lead plugged in in another room as the house owners regular handy man, who they used for all their building work, was not allowed to connect the drier to the existing fixed outlet plate. House was sold like this with no issues raised.

- My local building control whilst are very helpful, are to be honest, a little out of their depth with electrical work, just referring me to their list of approved contractors (£300 to come and test !!!). Building control are extremely helpful if you want to know foundation depths, lintel sizes etc and will even come out to advise before any design/work is started but they are completely lost (but helpful) when it comes to electrical work. I can see their point of view, they come out to say approve a lintel, they look at the plans, they look at the lintel, look in a book lintels, they match up, it is strong enough...job done (ok that's a very broad simplification and more complicated than this) but as explained by the building inspector that method of working doesn't work with electrical work, which is why they have to subcontract out electrical work to specialists.

- I even bumped into an interesting story where some builders extending a kitchen built a temporary partition wall across the kitchen, thus meaning the electrical appliances were no longer in a special zone and could thus be worked on without issuing a Part P certificate. Building control, coming out to inspect a new door lintel, were amused, but were having none of it, as the certificate must be issued for the appliances final location. A Part P was correctly done in the end, but penny pinching makes people do strange things.

These are just a few of the Part P issues I have encountered.

Whilst I agree electrical safety is very important, especially in special areas (ie kitchen & bathroom), I feel the current Part P regulations do not help in improving safety especially where people are spending so much effort (eg extension lead to other room) in order to circumvent the regulations. There is still a healthy sale of "old colours" twin and earth on a popular internet auction site under the mistaken belief that this will allow you to do electrical work in the restricted areas without having to get it Part P certified.

I spend quite a lot of my time involved in computer security and if we find people bending the rules to get round some company rule/security practice to get their job done ie "Oh I use Johns PC to do that as he can access the data I need", we change our business practice and rules and security to try and accommodate what is happening in practice "out in the field". I feel Part P, if not being scrapped, should be modified to reflect what is happening "out in the field". Not sure how, but a law that is being ignored and is effectively unenforceable is not much use.

I know people from "Part P interested parties" will not be happy, but all the arguing and discussing is not going to change what is happening, you could blame B&Q for selling the materials thus allowing the uninformed and unqualified to access to the electrical material, but many electricians buy from B&Q and with the internet, buying from somewhere else is very easy, so closing that loop hole may not be possible.

I suspect changing Part P to allow "competent persons" to perform electrical work in domestic restricted areas might be applicable. This could allow tradesmen to operate, but with electrical test certificates (much as before) and also allow DIY'ers to work. Free inspection and testing by building control (but who would pay ??) would also help.

I hope that the information I have imparted above may be of use to realise when is happening "in the real world".


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