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Are professional tradesmen now 'Option B'?

Statistics, in many cases, have replaced proper news. Research bodies magic up percentages to explain how a woman finds a man more attractive if they wear a watch on their left hand, and this creates headline news across the globe. But occasionally statistics give genuine reason to pause. This was the case when I read that 41% of people in a survey said they are now more likely to carry out DIY work on their electrics and gas due to the economic climate...

The survey was carried out for the Gas Safe Register two weeks ago across the UK to 1,000 members of the public. And of those 1,000 respondents, only 15% said they would always use a professional tradesman.

It really is alarming that after years of campaigning by various safety organisations that people still believe their home electric and gas installations are areas where they can cut back on costs. The recession, it seems, is destroying people’s sense of perspective and with it endangering the lives of many families. So, what to do?

Obviously we do not want to wait for an increase in electrical accidents in homes for the message to sink in, so another tactic (or tactics) needs to be employed. An awareness campaign from the major industry safety bodies, coupled with reduced rates for an ‘electrical check-ups’ and inspections would go some way to making it clear that safety can not be compromised with electricity while also eliminating some of the financial worry.

However, I would suggest that the vast majority of people are already completely aware that attempting DIY electrics is a dangerous business, but they feel that by bodging it for now they can get away from calling someone in to do it for a few months until more cash comes in. It’s that “I reckon I can get away with it for now” mentality that needs to be addressed, especially now that people are more willing than ever to postpone what should be dealt with now, or worse, have a go at doing it themselves.

With the proliferation of the internet, it doesn’t take long to find advice on how to do home re-wiring, even if many of the sites carry disclaimers saying they take no responsibility for any resulting injury or fatality. Clearly, if these sites are still gaining hits then there is further proof that Part P has failed to get its message across as well.

Please do send any further ideas on how to stop DIY electricians through to

Enjoy the newsletter,

Richard Scott

Your Comments:

Part P is a poor replacement for the closed shop. When my dad was an apprentice he server 7 years 5 as apprentice and 2 as journeyman. He had to be a member of the union to work and he also had when he returned to industry after the second world war the right to demand the semi-skilled people gave up their job so he being skilled could do it instead.

Over time the power the Union had has been eroded and no longer can they with draw a union card and cause some one who has committed misdemeanours to stop work.

This has now been replaced with the new unions like NAPIT where people are accepted or rejected membership.

A cleaver way for Labour to re-introduce the Union under another name.

The rules are so daft it does not take a University Graduate to work out for a County Council Building Control to charge £115 to check if a room thermostat has been correctly replaced with a combined room thermostat and timer which consists of two mounting screws and two wires is an absolutely ridiculous charge.

The increase of extension leads and adaptors is reaching very dangerous levels and the do stop the time server electrician who would have done a few jobs to get a little extra money. But it has not stopped the DIY person with no knowledge from doing the work. As a result it must be causing dangerous work to be completed.

But by making the work illegal it will stop people reporting dangerous work and will allow the statistics to show there are less reported incidences of sub-standard work.

The only reliable statistics that can be used are deaths.

A licence which can be revoked in the same way as a driving licence is only way. So as one completes training and passes the tests you get a licence and if you have a misdemeanours you gain points just like a driving licence and after so many points over 5 years you lose it. General public complain to council and the council inspects and as well as points fines one which will then be self financing.

Anyone without a licence will not be able to ask for money to complete domestic work.

So simple it could work!

Eric Palmer


I am a MIEE and CEng (not to mention FInstP), and I reckon I understand the principles and practice of wiring and have my own copy of the current wiring regulations. Until recently I was qualified to sign off house wiring in England and Wales, and I still am in Scotland, though I no longer actually do so as I do not have the currently required test equipment. Also, I have installed plumbed central heating in my own house, replaced a complete bathroom, and installed en-suite with electric shower.

The problem as I see it is that wiring and plumbing has become easier and less technical over many years, from early days with lead pipes through soldered copper pipe to modern plastic push-fit. Anyone can do a good job if they take care, plumbing or wiring. Why should anyone automatically assume that means "bodging" and "dangerous?"

So when I recently had a sun-lounge built, it was a package, but I wanted two sockets added to the original plan, cost £40 extra, which of course I see as a trivial job, paid at a very high rate.

Perhaps a better way forward is to separate the function of testing and approval from installation, in the same way that car repairs may be done by anyone, but the annual MoT vehicle test ensures that unsafe vehicles are kept off the roads. That is already done in PAT and landlord test certificates.


Ed - I fully agree that there will be a large number of engineers who although not technically 'qualified' to carry out electrical work in the house, will be more than capable of doing so to a safe standard. What the survey from the Gas Safe Register and my article were more concerned about was the surprisingly high percentage of people in the survey who would consider carrying out electrical and gas work on their houses. I would be even more surprised if many of the 400+ people who said they are more likely to consider doing so now have any engineering qualifications whatsoever, which does suggest that dangerous work is very likely to result.


The Part ‘P’ regulations have gone some way to curtailing the activities of the cowboys. Unfortunately, the regulations are now so stringent that they have precluded many competent and very capable individuals from Part ‘P’ registration as it is not viable or even possible for them to qualify. As a consequence, the costs to the average homeowner of having electrical work undertaken have rocketed so it is no surprise that many not so competent homeowners are now taking the chance.

John Walters, CEng. MIET.


I read recently that in the 1700's Government passed a law to tax clocks and watches. Thousands of watchmakers immediately went bust.

This is called the "Law of unforeseen results". ( Did you learn about the "Window tax" at school too? )

Withdrawing from the EU might put a stop to similar blindfold laws such as the recent legislation regarding Domestic Electrical work which has the "Unforeseen" result of encouraging people to DIY.

A friend of mine recently wanted to upgrade his 1980's kitchen. "Ah, yes, Sir, well this wiring was OK a couple of years ago but new EC legislation requires me to charge you a small fortune to rip it out and rewire it, and while I'm about it I will also have to re-do the whole house AND replace your perfectly adequate fuse box with a much more expensive set of kit and also I will have to rip up your floor to install conduit to your kitchen as a separate circuit"

Needless to say, the work was adequately carried out by DIY as my friend had worked as an electrician for twenty years up to retirement 3 years ago.

Martin Freye
Finance Director
Connexion Developments Ltd


I believe that were gas and electrics are concerned you need to get a professionally qualified person into do the job for the safety of the whole household. However, having been at the receiving end of poor quality workmanship by a 'Part P' registered contractor - the business owner himself and not an employee, one begins to wonder whether this system is all it is cracked up to be. The work was undertaken in an en-suite shower room and required the installation of all the electrics and a heated towel rail sited alongside the shower cubicle. The contractor put a single gang switched socket under the towel rail where water could easily drip onto it when reaching for a towel. I had to insist on the accessory being relocated. I was not convinced that the system was working well.

Best wishes

Jayne Ayers


I refer to your article below:

“An awareness campaign from the major industry safety bodies, coupled with reduced rates for an ‘electrical check-ups’ and inspections would go some way to making it clear that safety cannot be compromised with electricity while also eliminating some of the financial worry”

As an NICEIC approved contractor, I see many, so called test certificates, with huge omissions covered by limitations, which read; power, lights and earth loop readings, no insulation resistance readings what so ever, ( one of the main reasons for failure of an electrical system and fire) and many other omissions; Letting agents, telling their landlords they don’t have to carry out a test, small shop owners who think it’s nothing to do with them, its they’re landlords responsibility, it’s not legally required.

Tell that to the student that got 3rd degree burns last week, from a faulty and dangerous electrical system, which by the way did not have a test certificate!

I spent 4 hours at a company not long ago, who thought that they had proper test certificates, they manage a large amount of property, of the sampling they gave me I failed 60% of the certification it was not worth the paper it was written on, ( but they got it done Cheap), the public are ignorant, they are not qualified to read a technical document, they don’t know what it means, I try to put the items, if found on page two of a periodic report, into plain English, and yes before you ask legal action is taking place.

There are so called testing companies out there carrying out works at rates so low you could not even employ an apprentice, yet you are advocating lowering them further!

By the very nature of your statement, you are compromising the lives and safety of thousands of people.

When I carry out a test and inspection, and then I am abused verbally for the fact that it failed, as it was unsafe! “ it’s worked perfectly well up until now, I’m reporting you to the NICEIC, your trying to rip me off, my answer as always is, here is my enrolment number here is the telephone number go ahead”

Or they refuse to pay until they get the certificate, which I won’t issue until I get paid, I have had too many people get the info, and then had to take them to court to get paid, you cannot get an MOT certificate or your car back until you have paid for it so why should I hand over the paperwork, and yes they are told this before I agree to do the work for them.

The vast majority of the public think, that when they ask for a certificate, it will pass, even though I and many other properly qualified contractors, explain the nature of what they are asking us to do.

I have even had people and companies come to me after agreeing the cost, and us doing the work, them signing the job sheet, and ask a few days or even a few hours later, to reduce the cost as they have found somebody else who could do it cheaper, and then refused to pay their bills.

I have phoned the companies concerned and found out they are not carrying out a full test, only the bare minimum, which is why they are cheaper, the customers are oblivious to this, they think all test are the same? Can you go into Sainsbury take the food and then offer to pay them less than the agreed price as you found it cheaper else ware NO, so why do they think they can do it to us.

I personally think it’s about time the government and every other interested party got off their lazy backsides, and removed the gray areas, which so many solicitors, landlords and legal eagle’s use to get out of carrying out safety checks, all be it illegally in the majority of cases, and once and for all make BS7671 LAW, and testing and inspection mandatory, which it is under other statutory laws.

However please do not let me see, so called part P qualified engineers who have never seen VIR or rubber or Lead cable, passing properties that are obviously dangerous, because they spent 12 weeks doing a testing course and are now supposedly qualified to test and inspect a property, I like many others in this industry have spent years learning and Thousands of pounds on qualifications, insurances, test equipment software etc, to remain competent under many schemes and the ensuing red tape, only to find people as young as 19! who are now supposedly qualified to test! Because it suits the government statistics?

Of course prices are going to vary, but when I get companies carrying out so called full electrical tests for £ 100.00 inc vat on 4-5 bedroom houses with over 20 circuits, I seriously wonder how they can go home and sleep at night, the answer is they can, because the public are not aware of what they are getting, and the constant drive to cut costs and save money even if your lives are at stake seems to be an epidemic that is sweeping through the country.

I am sorry if this seems like a rant, but it’s about time the Government spoke to the people on the front lines not the large companies that have huge machines ready to pound people into the ground, with massive resources, Oh and I forgot the ability to hold numerous black tie affairs and lunches etc, when was the last time a minister was in a local cafe, or invited a one man company to discuss his/her views on the current situation, I see huge lip service being paid but no Do.

R J Magnus MD
Magnus Services

Ed - I hope I didn't give the impression that I believe prices for electrical work should be slashed, as that would simply play into the hands of dodgy tradesmen. But as cost seems to be a major issue for members of the public, there needs to be a way of ensuring that qualified, accredited electricians are the ones getting through the door in the first place. My first thought was by way of a reduced cost preliminary inspection coupled with an awareness campaign (which would also advocate the use of properly qualified and accredited traders), but as I said, I'm open to further ideas!

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