Michael Latham says the Construction Industry Board's achievements must not be allowed to wither away, but any successor must tackle best practice as well as safety
A much-respected industry figure put it TO me directly a couple of weeks ago: "Your public stance on the enforced closure of the Construction Industry Board could make a big difference," he said. I do not know why that should be so. I seek no official position across the industry. But I do have views. Here they are.

A lawyer once described the CIB as "Latham's creation". That is not so.

I was impressed, when undertaking my review in 1993-94, with the achievements and outputs of the equivalent organisations in Australia and Singapore. However, it was the Chartered Institute of Building, in its written and oral evidence, that called for a specific implementation mechanism.

A weakness of earlier industry studies, the Simon and the Banwell reports, was that they made recommendations for best practice but set no timescales or delivery processes. I suggested an implementation mechanism, if the industry and clients wanted it. Any such pan-industry body should have a specific lifespan of only five years, and should be concerned with helping to achieve 30% cost reduction by 2000.

The new CIB, set up in February 1995, was tasked with implementing my recommendations. It did an excellent job. It produced firm codes of practice and guidance documents, set up the Considerate Constructors Scheme, initiated National Construction Week and brought together all sections of the industry with clients and government.

It had significant influence over the Construction Act. Its consensus approach produced compromise agreements between CIB representatives that persuaded the Tory government to legislate. Don Ward, its chief executive, can be proud of what was achieved.

The new Labour government had other priorities. John Prescott wanted faster reform and more client leadership. The Egan report, followed by the Movement for Innovation and the Construction Best Practice Programme, produced a new agenda that did not sit easily with the CIB.

It would have been better if the Labour government had set up one new body in 1999 to carry out all the work of the CIB, the Movement for Innovation and the Construction Best Practice Programme, rather than persisting with three separate organisations without any clear co-ordinating mechanism.

I hope the DETR will set up one body, involving clients and the supply side. It must address safety, but also continue to deliver the Egan agenda

The present impasse has arisen because of the refusal of the new client body, the Confederation of Construction Clients, to support the CIB, even in the limited role proposed by Chris Vickers' report last year.

That is hard to understand. The previous Construction Clients Forum was a strong CIB participant. This volte-face cannot be about money. Several members of the new confederation could have paid the CIB subscription from loose change. They could also have had the chair of the board, and led the restructuring of it.

There is no use in any CIB without client participation. The supply side does not need formal mechanisms to enable firms to talk to each other. A few weeks ago I was sounded out by prominent figures in government. I advised them that the minister should take the chair and that if the Confederation of Construction Clients would not join, there were other prominent clients that would. I added that the opportunity should also be taken to bring the CIB, the Movement for Innovation and the Construction Best Practice Programme under one roof, as the National Audit Office also hinted last January.

The government's praiseworthy safety campaign could lead to a "son of CIB".

Any such new body should not only concern itself with safety. Production, performance and safety should be fully integrated. Safety is not an issue on its own, to be left to safety experts in management and trade unions. It should infuse the whole construction agenda. There is already a statutory safety committee. It is called the Health and Safety Executive.

A general election is imminent. A change of DETR ministers is likely. The current turf war within the DETR must cease. The new team will need a fresh approach. I hope it will set up one body, involving clients and the supply side, with the secretariat provided by the DETR. It must address safety issues, but also continue to deliver the Egan agenda.