First person Forget the tawdry glamour of Miss World; the most up-to-the-minute prizes are being awarded in the construction industry.
The Miss World competition returned to our TV screens this month. Despite such events being criticised as old-fashioned, sexist and insulting to women, they still manage to attract an audience – and not all of them gawping men.

As it is the end of the year, it is time for me to award my prizes for the construction winners of 1999. Here they are, in descending order. The decision of the judge (myself) is final, and the winners must buy their own prizes.

  • The Tarzan/Heseltine “Getting Things Done” award, for the construction motivator of the year. In third place is the former chief secretary to the Treasury, Alan Milburn, for giving impetus to a major change programme of best practice procurement by the Treasury and other government spending departments.

    Sharing second position is Alan Crane, chairman of the Movement for Innovation, for driving forward the demonstration project programme, worth at least £2.9bn, to involve 85 projects and 500 firms; and the “Building Down Barriers” Defence Estates team and its supply side partners, Laing and Amec. But first place must go to construction minister Nick Raynsford, who has made himself immensely approachable and accessible, as well as popular and respected by the industry for his grasp of its problems. The industry has also praised his personal support for the Egan reform process, his anti-cowboy initiative and drive for better performance and cost reduction by the industry. In 1998, Raynsford launched the Construction Act, which had been on the statute book since 1996 but never activated. In the past year, he has pressed forward the entire reform programme in conjunction with the Best Practice Programme, the Movement for Innovation and the Construction Industry Board. He is a deserved Mr Motivator.

  • The John Egan “Changing Rooms” award, for those who have made a real difference, often in unexpected ways. Bringing up the rear is the London Eye team, for designing, constructing and erecting a remarkable structure that will give much pleasure to thousands of people. OK, so they had a hiccup at first, but this was a game of two halves and they came back strongly the second time. It’s up, it will soon be running and it will give a splendid view of London – but I will not be on it because I cannot stand heights.

    Second comes the Millennium Dome team, again for producing (hopefully on time) another structure and contents that millions of people recognise and talk about, and many will visit. OK again, it’s not St Paul’s Cathedral or the Taj Mahal, and it will not please everybody. Some deplore it being built at all with lottery money, when the hundreds of millions of pounds could have been used for hospitals or other good causes. But it is there, it has provoked massive interest, and it has focused the minds of the whole industry on the need to bring in a project on time, because in this case, time is of the essence.

    We have the Clinton/Lewinsky award for the most gracious apology by any lawyer who had previously rubbished the Construction Act in advance

    And in first place is Judge Dyson of the Technology and Construction Court, for his judgment in Macob v Morrison, when he robustly upheld the decision of the elected parliament of the UK that adjudication should be the usual and quick method of dispute resolution in construction if parties cannot settle their own differences beforehand. There have been further clear judgments since, but Dyson deserves the accolade for taking the vital first step.

    I have some other awards with only a limited list of contenders.

  • The clear winner of the “Eddie the Eagle” booby prize for the least successful piece of best-value procurement is the House of Commons, for its dismal performance over the Harmon case. The outcome has led some bean counters, before they had properly read the judgment, to go around saying: “There you are, it really should be lowest price, always,” claiming they had never believed in all this best practice stuff anyway, except in respect of their own professional fee bids when seeking work.

  • The England cricket/football/rugby team “Perennial Losers” booby prize for the scheme least suitable for an Egan demonstration project on time and to cost, goes to the runaway winner, the Jubilee Line Extension. Splendid engineering but, oh dear, what did it do for the industry’s image? The Newbury bypass was the ignominious runner-up, having to be closed all too soon after it had opened.

  • Finally, we have the President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky award for the most gracious apology by any lawyer who had previously rubbished everything about adjudication or the Construction Act in advance, but who has now admitted that they had got it wrong and the act was working quite well. No prize has been awarded, because there have been no entrants for this category.