Minister: Licensing of building contractors will raise construction sector standards

Opposition leader insists authorities must act on enacted legislation, slamming Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi for not addressing realities faced by construction sector victims

Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi
Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi

Licensing of building contractors will raise the bar in the construction sector, Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said in parliament on Monday.

“The amendments will define clearly the responsibilities of those who work on a construction site, to ensure a more professional sector and improve its quality,” the minister said.

Parliament on Monday started debating the second reading on the licensing of building contractors.

A reform of the sector has been on the table for several years but calls intensified after the tragic death of Jean Paul Sofia, who was killed when a building under construction collapsed last year.

Government is proposing that applicants will have to have insurance policies in place, safeguarding protecting both third parties and their employees. Applicants have to be over 18 and cannot be bankrupt.

There will be three separate licences for demolition, excavation and building works with contractors able to apply for all three.

Contractors seeking a demolition and excavation licence will need to have three years of experience in the field, confirmed by two architects. Those who have an MQF Level 4 qualification in the sector only require two years’ experience.

Those seeking a building licence must be licenced as masons. Companies applying for a licence must employ a licenced mason and have at least three years of experience.

The planning minister said that more than 1,000 people attended the public consultation meetings organised by government, labelling it a show of trust in the construction sector.

“Everyone must be informed and feel included on the changes we will be carrying out,” he said.

He slammed the Nationalist Party for not submitting their suggestions during the consultation period.

“Only the Labour Party, and ADPD made submissions. While we were at the fore-front of reforms, the Opposition party failed to make its position clear,” he said.

Words alone do not save lives - Bernard Grech

Addressing the House, Nationalist leader Bernard Grech said that while the Opposition will be voting in favour of the proposed changes, authorities need to act.

“We want institutions and authorities which truly work, which prevent accidents and illegalities, and not react to them,” Grech said.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech
Opposition leader Bernard Grech

He slammed Zrinzo Azzopardi for refusing to address the realities facing the sector.

“We have just listened to a 30-minute speech by a minister who is fronting the law, who speaks about decisions and consultation, but fails to mention the people affected by abusive situations,” he said.

The Opposition leader said impunity in the country has continued to be strengthened over the past 10 years.

“A climate of impunity is becoming even stronger, where people think they can do as they please. This is a government which empowers those who do as they please,” he said.

On the PN not make any submissions to the public consultation, Bernard Grech said it “does not need” to participate in a consultation it has stressed on for years.

“We have been speaking about solutions for years. Government needs to listen to what we say,” he said.

Jean Paul Sofia

Both speakers made reference to the tragic death of Jean Paul Sofia in their speeches.

Zrinzo Azzopardi reiterated statements made by the Prime Minister Robert Abela, in calling for a speedy end to the magisterial inquiry into the incident.

Jean Paul Sofia
Jean Paul Sofia

“People in this country need to understand that those who do not abide by regulation need to face justice,” he said. “The inquiry into Jean Paul’s Sofia’s death needs to be finished as soon as possible, so that those who did not do things properly face justice.”

Grech on the other hand slammed government for politicising the party’s support for a public inquiry into the incident. “You should be ashamed trying to politicise our support to Jean Paul Sofia’s mother, that is our duty.”

He also made reference to a MaltaToday report revealing government's industrial parks agency has started court proceedings to terminate the concession awarded to two businesspersons for the construction of a factory in the Corradino Industrial Estate where Jean Paul Sofia died after the building collapsed.

“So, there is something wrong in this situation! If not, why is INDIS demanding the land be given back? This highlights the need for a public inquiry,” he said.

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