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Thursday 8 July 2004


Sir Michael Latham

Public Orator, Professor Ron McCaffer presented the Honorary Graduand at the Degree Ceremony held on Thursday 8 July 2004 at 3.00pm.

Chancellor, Mayor of Charnwood, Ladies and Gentlemen and especially today New Graduates of Loughborough University.

It is a particular pleasure to welcome our honorary graduand, both a national and local figure, on today of all days when so many of you our new graduates are from construction disciplines. Sir Michael Latham is a name that your our new graduates in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying will all undoubtedly recognise, at least from your required reading, but more so from his towering presence in your chosen industry. Sir Michael Latham is a man that has shaped your industry and contributed to making it a source of attractive employment in which to build your careers.

The Latham report 1994 ‘Constructing the Team’ a joint industry – government report was based on the simple concept that through teamwork the construction industry could delight its customers. The report acted as a wake up with all the urgency of an emergency siren. This was a report that had to be listened too, the industry couldn’t but help but hear the cries for reform. The industry was ‘ineffective’, ‘adversarial’, ‘fragmented’, ‘incapable of delivering for its customers’ and ‘lacking respect for its employees’. More than just ringing alarm bells the Latham report set the agenda for reform and gave the industry targets. From this a raft of initiatives flowed. The report led to the establishment of the Construction Industry Board to oversee reform and subsequent initiatives were the Egan report 1998 ‘Re-thinking construction’; the Construction Best Practice Programme’, ‘The Movement for Innovation’ and ‘Constructing Excellence’. All designed to drive the industry forward.

Construction is a large sector in our economy with an output of over £60bn, representing 8% of GDP. There are few with the temerity to try to reform such a large industry. There are even fewer with the ability to succeed. Sir Michael continues to play a leading role in the industry as Chairman of the Construction Industry Training Board, of Construction Skills, the Sector Skills Council for Construction, Deputy Chairman of Willmott Dixon Limited, Chairman of the Collaborative Working Centre Limited and Non-Executive Deputy Chairman of BIW Technologies. He chairs Partnership Sourcing, a company established in association with the CBI and the DTI, is president of a trade federation and chairman of several committees of national organisations concerned with the construction industry.

So how did a 1964 Cambridge history graduate with an MA in 1968, a Certificate in Education from Oxford in 1965 achieve such an impact on construction. The answer lies in the Sir Michael’s education roots which provided him the skills to educate construction and commitment to succeed came from his natural evangelical zeal developed as a lay preacher. The road he travelled to reach the platform from which to launch his reform of the industry was through politics.

From 1965 he served in the Conservative Research Department, moved into the National Federation of Building Trades Employers in 1967, and began an engagement with the construction industry which has lasted ever since. He was appointed Director of the National House Builders’ Federation in 1971. In 1974, he entered Parliament as Member for Melton, a constituency bordering onto Loughborough. After boundary changes in 1983 this became Rutland and Melton. He served as an MP until 1992. On a personal note I was one of his constituents who actually consulted him at his surgery in Quorn. For all of his 18 years as an MP, Michael Latham was an active and valued member of the Court of this University.

In 2001, Sir Michael extended his connections with this University when he agreed to become the first President of the European Construction Institute, which was founded and remains based here at the University. ECI is unique as a trans-national learning network bringing together over 70 major companies from six countries with the aim of improving the performance of the construction industry throughout Europe. The role of the President was intended to be titular, a figure head, representing the values of ECI. But not for Sir Michael, his approach has been one of enthusiasm, commitment and dedicated effort. He saw ECI’s strengths in its powerful network, he saw its potential to improve a continent wide industry, he also saw its weaknesses and the need to build a wide profile for ECI throughout Europe and to re-position and re-launch ECI for its second decade.

As he had provided leadership for the whole construction industry he has provided leadership for ECI revising and reshaping its ambitions and activities.

Sir Michael has received many honours, with honorary degrees including Leicester, Nottingham Trent, Birmingham and Northumbria universities. He is an honorary fellow of nine professional institutions –including the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering, the others being the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chartered Institute of Building ,the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, the Institute of Building Control, the Architects & Surveyors Institute, the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and the Landscape Institute and is also an honorary member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of Leicestershire. He was knighted in 1993.
Sir Michael is married to Caroline and has two sons.. They are with us here today and we welcome them to witness our honouring of a national figure who changed the construction industry and who has served us here in our local community and in our University.

Chancellor, I am proud to present to your and the University Sir Michael Latham, for the degree of Doctor of Technology, honoris causa.


Loughborough University - Degree Speeches 2004, July 2004
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