Tributes pour in for ‘reformer’ Sir Michael Latham

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  Posted by: electime      10th November 2017

Sir Michael Latham: 20 November 1942 – 2 November 2017

Trade bodies across the electrical sector have honoured the hard work and dedication of one of construction’s finest exponents.

The ECA expressed its ‘great sadness’ of the passing of Sir Michael Latham, who died peacefully on 2nd November, aged 74.

Sir Michael was actively involved with the engineering services sector of the construction industry. Notably, he was chair of the Joint Industry Board from 1997 to 2012, and of the Joint Major Contractors’ Group, which brought together many of the largest engineering services members of ECA and HVCA (now the BESA).

ECA Director of Employment and Skills Alex Meikle commented: “On behalf of everyone at ECA I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to Sir Michael’s family and friends. Sir Michael was an industry champion throughout his esteemed career, and will be greatly missed.”

Sir Michael is perhaps best known in the industry for his highly influential ‘Constructing the Team’ report in 1994, whose key recommendations ECA warmly welcomed and still advocates. The report became more widely known as the ‘Latham Report’ and it remains the benchmark for government and other studies on improving construction productivity and the delivery of value for clients.

Julia Evans, chief executive, BSRIA, said: “On behalf of everyone at BSRIA and its members, we were very saddened by the passing of Sir Michael Latham.

“Sir Michael was an industry visionary in his time who had a long and distinguished career over a number of years. Indeed: he sought to change the industry for the better, recognising the benefits of greater stakeholder collaboration and everyone involved in the supply chain. For a number of years – he was CITB Chairman. In essence, Sir Michael’s contribution to the industry is remarkable. And he has undoubtedly left the industry in an enhanced place.”

BESA, who describes Sir Michael as a “reformer”, praised his legacy.

The former MP and chairman of Willmott Dixon wrote his influential report Trust and Money followed closely by the government-commissioned Constructing the Team in 1994, which was the precursor to a wide-ranging modernisation of the sector – and eventually major parts of the Construction Act.

BESA’s legal and commercial director Rob Driscoll said that as a law student he studied the “legendary abilities of Sir Michael in bringing all parties involved in the built environment together in a common cause”.

“As an industry, we are privileged to have had Banwell, Egan, Farmer, Wolstenholm, Morell, Bentley and Bew, but Latham brought about seismic change like no-one before or since. He understood the many vagaries of the sector and was, therefore, able to represent the interests of all, which he did with patience and diplomacy.”

Sir Michael served as chairman of the Joint Major Contractors’ Group for many years and worked closely with BESA (then the HVCA) in an attempt to improve the lot of specialist sub-contractors. He also chaired the Construction Industry Training Board and ConstructionSkills until 2010.

“He worked tirelessly to reform an under-performing industry in dire need of modernisation and his legacy is the Construction Act, which was a transformational piece of legislation,” said Mr Driscoll. “However, he also recognised the problems around retentions as well as payment generally, and restated the need for trust accounts to be underpinned by legislation.”

He proposed the replacement of retentions with retention bonds that would reduce in value as each milestone section of the work was completed.

“Some clients may prefer a cash retention system, and that option should also be available for them, provided that the money is retained in a secure trust fund,” said Sir Michael in his 1994 report.

“Hopefully, due to recent government developments and consultations on retentions, we may finally realise his vision and preserve his legacy 23 years later,” said Mr Driscoll.