Construction minister Mark Prisk has insisted a crucial part of Peter Hansford’s role as chief construction adviser will be to tell government when it is proposing something that “is not feasible”.
Mr Prisk told CN that current chief construction adviser Paul Morrell had always been clear with Whitehall when it was proposing ideas that the industry could not support and that he expected Mr Hansford to do the same.
He said: “I’m sure [Peter] will get his points across [to ministers]. Paul has always been a very good advocate in his ability to make it clear when a discussion within Whitehall is going to be badly received or something that will be difficult for industry to put into practice.
“You need that person who comes from the private sector to be able to say to us in Whitehall ‘hang on a moment, in practice these are the downsides’ and to be candid with us.
“Paul has been good at that and I hope and trust Peter will do the same as I would expect that from him.”
The final decision to appoint Mr Hansford rested with ministers including Mr Prisk and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, after each of the 17 candidates had been scrutinised by a three-man panel which included a senior Treasury and Department for Business official as well as Lend Lease global operating officer Dan Labbad.
Mr Prisk said Mr Hansford’s time in the private sector and his “crucial project management experience” on big infrastructure projects will be important during his two-year role.
“Government is a regulator, funder and a client and so it has a range of roles that mean it’s difficult to get an objective industry opinion.
“Having someone within government who’s able to provide that and has the confidence of industry is important.”
Mr Prisk said that government is committed to reforming how government operates as a client so “cost reduction and a client that has its own processes in order is crucial”.
He added: “Both Francis Maude and I have the view that having someone who has lots of experience of that would make a very appropriate chief construction adviser for the government.”
Among Mr Morrell’s achievements in the role has been to drive the UK’s takeup of BIM, to the extent that the Construction Industry Council has appointed Richard Saxon to promote the UK’s work through the BIM strategy internationally.
Asked about the role of BIM and Mr Hansford’s expertise in the area, Mr Prisk said the handover period would be crucial between Mr Morrell and the incoming chief construction adviser.
He said: “Paul has been an excellent CCA and getting the handover is important. BIM is relatively new to many of us but where it operates it has been successful.
“BIM is like a lot of innovation we’ve seen in construction over the last few years - it’s about getting it established effectively and making sure it’s understood and supplied. That requires a real strength of character and direction and I think Peter has got that capability.”