I must confess, since I doubt we are exactly ideological soulmates, that I have become a great fan of Egan over the past 18 months. He not only talks a good game but has consistently delivered in his business career. The vibrancy of Britain's leading airports is testimony to that fact.
From my perspective as a mere politician trying to get to grips with a complex industry, Egan's great strength was that he created an agenda that contained a great deal of common sense. You don't have to be a construction specialist to recognise the potential benefits – to companies, workers and clients – of implementing the principles of Rethinking Construction.
Many leading players in the construction industry have done so, to lesser or greater degree. But it is not easy to disseminate a philosophy through all the veins and capillaries of a vast and varied industry body. This is particularly true at a time when the market is booming and the need to embrace new ways of working does not seem particularly pressing. Shortsighted, but true.
Indeed, I am sufficiently worldly to wonder whether some of the practitioners of construction with whom I come into contact – in my domestic life rather than in meetings at the DTI – have even heard of Rethinking Construction, far less embraced it. There is still a very, very big job to be done by companies and clients.
Small wonder, then, if Egan feels a little frustrated as he passes the baton. But that doesn't detract from the fact that he has done an exceptionally good job, raised the right challenges and offered some excellent solutions. They will, I suspect, stand the test of time.
I wonder whether the builders I meet have even heard of Rethinking Construction, far less embraced it
Although the government took the lead with Rethinking Construction, the manifesto for Accelerating Change has been produced by the industry itself. The strategic forum, which has carried the agenda forward, contains a wider cross-section of industry representatives than any previous body. It was, in itself, no mean feat for them to come up with a significant programme for change on which they could all agree.
But dissemination and implementation? These are the challenges that now face Rogers, and I welcome his fresh approach. He has a very healthy set of priorities – including, as Adrian Barrick noted (13 September, page 3), the urgent need to tackle skills shortages and address the need, identified in Accelerating Change, to attract 300,000 more qualified people into the construction industry by 2006.
I am particularly interested in the role of government as a client. We cannot change the world or even the construction industry by decree. But we certainly should be able to implement rigorous standards for our own performance where we are spending taxpayers' money in pursuit of our policy objectives – schools, hospitals, roads and all the rest of it.
The Office of Government Commerce was established in 2000 and has done some excellent work with government departments. It has issued a range of best practice guidance across the procurement agenda and has introduced the Gateway Review process, which is improving the delivery of major projects. But there is still a lot to do at all levels of government, which accounts for 40% of the national client base.
Brian Wilson is minister for construction at the DTI.