By Mark Stillman
Barely-trained electricians who put householders at risk should face urgent tighter regulation, MPs have recommended.
The current system puts people's lives at risk with the chance of faulty rewiring in homes, a Commons committee claimed.
Members are calling for anyone undertaking such work to hold a NVQ Level III or equivalent qualification as well as substantial on-the-job training.
Householders would then have peace of mind that the electrician re-wiring their home is properly qualified, they say.
Public awareness 'unacceptable'
The committee said it was told that workers who have a five-week training course as their only qualification are re-wiring houses.
The situation is not helped by a "completely unacceptable" level of public awareness of the current system, according to the communities and local government select committee.
Under current building regulations, any electrician can undertake such work, providing they are supervised by a registered "competent person".
But some of these barely-trained workers are approving over 3,400 jobs a year.
MPs claimed they were told that some householders "stand as much chance of getting a competent person as asking a bloke down the pub to do the job".
MPs want minimum of NVQ Level III
The committee received evidence of some electricians who had only taken a "two-hour open book exam" prior to undertaking domestic electrical work.
Meanwhile, others took internet-advertised "five-week wonder" courses.
Within five years, the MPs suggested, no one should be permitted to undertake such work without an NVQ Level III or equivalent and "a significant period of supervised on-the-job training".
During this timespan, a ceiling should be made on the amount of cases each "competent person" could be responsible for signing off.
Chairman Clive Betts said: "Somebody whose only electrical qualification is that they have attended a five-week training course simply should not be re-wiring houses.
"Yet this is what we were told is happening.
"The person in the home wants to know that the person arriving on the doorstep is a qualified electrician.
"The current system does not guarantee this. Rather, it can brand the incompetent as competent.
"Under the changes we propose people would know that the electrician working in their home is qualified.
"If, as scheme operators told us, standards of electricians are already high, then the added criteria will not be too onerous."