JCT Interviews…Victoria Peckett

Partner, head of construction, CMS-CMNO
Chair, JCT Drafting Sub-Committee

In a special edition of ‘JCT Interviews…’, we talk once again with Victoria Peckett, chair of the JCT Drafting Sub-Committee (DSC), to update us on JCT’s current work and what we can expect from the next edition of the JCT contract suite.

JCT: Victoria, thanks for joining us again. You are about to embark on your next term as chair of the DSC. What do you find enjoyable/rewarding about the role, what are the biggest challenges?

VP: It is great to help JCT shape contracts that will suit the construction industry for the future. We are all used to dealing with the day-to-day challenges our roles send our way. Getting the chance to consider how to future-proof contracts that need to work for many years to come is a bit of a change from those challenges, and seeing those changes come to fruition is very rewarding!

JCT: What do you feel are the main strengths that you bring to the role? How does your professional role help inform your work with the DSC?

VP: My main aim is to try to reach a consensus across all parts of the industry on the updates to the JCT suite that we are considering. People are very passionate about what they feel the contracts should say and often can have wildly different views about this. I hope that one of the main skills I bring is the ability to find a consensus that works for everyone. I think my work as a lawyer seeking to find solutions that work best for my clients really encourages me to dig deep to find out what the real blockages are and how they might be overcome – and this helps to find a consensus which may otherwise be difficult to create.

JCT: The DSC is currently busy working on the next JCT edition. In terms of broad themes, what can we expect from the next update to the suite?

VP: There are some key themes that have been affecting the industry over the past year or so (some of which we will touch on shortly) which will need to be addressed in the updated JCT suite. Some of these – like the Building Safety Bill – will be driven by legislative change. Some by updating the suite to reflect best practice and, increasingly, different ways of working. Some to reflect aspects of case law where JCT decides that adaptations should be made to the suite to deal with issues arising from certain judgments. And we are instituting a general update to the suite to adopt gender neutral wording.

JCT: The impact of Covid-19, the Grenfell tragedy, and climate change will have wide reaching implications, not least contractually, for the industry. What do you see as JCT’s role in responding to these issues?

VP: These are huge issues for the world, not just the construction industry or JCT! But JCT can help the construction industry by increasing awareness of the issues and how JCT tackles – and will tackle – them, for example by publishing articles and guidance. That is of course in addition to producing updated editions of the JCT suite to provide the parties with appropriate contract clauses dealing with these issues.

JCT: Getting the industry back on its feet post Covid-19 remains a huge challenge. What do you see as the other major challenges facing the industry once a sense of normality can be restored?

VP: Indeed yes, getting back to some sort of normality will be a big challenge in itself. And as you have already mentioned reforming the industry to prevent Grenfell ever happening again will be a key challenge. Along with climate change and adopting new ways of working to embrace the digital age and increasing use of offsite manufacturing.

JCT: What role does JCT have to play in assisting the industry with its recovery and moving forward?

VP: We have already touched on some of these. Increasing awareness of the key issues and how JCT tackles them is one area. Producing contracts which parties can adopt which will fit their chosen procurement method and nature of project enable them to get into contract quicker and more cost effectively is another.