Commissioned in 1962, in the same year that the Emmerson Report was published (Survey of Problems Before the Construction Industries), the Banwell Report ‘The Placing and Management of Contracts for Building and Civil Engineering Work’ was published in 1964. It was prepared by a committee headed by Sir Harold Banwell and including leading industry figures from Taylor Woodrow Construction, Trollope & Colls, Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners and others.
The report focussed on team relationships, construction contracts and other construction documentation (notably bills of quantities). It looked in detail at the traditional separation between design and construction and criticised the industry for having entrenched positions and operating with a lack of speed and purpose.
The report questioned why there was one form of contract for building, a different form for civil engineering and still another for government work. It recommended instead the eventual creation of a common form of contract for building and civil engineering.
Significantly the report recommended the sharing of feedback by anonymously listing prices submitted as a record to be shared with all firms that have tendered. This does not presume appointment based on the lowest bid, nor does it disclose identities but it does help bid managers to keep their pricing more competitive.
The recommendations of the report were adopted by many Local Authorities although not taken up by the Ministry of Works, and action on contracts was not supported by industry bodies such as the Joint Contracts Tribunal and the Civil Engineering Conditions of Contract Standing Joint Committee.
In 1967, the Potts Report was launched, apparently to try to implement some of the findings of the Banwell Report (Potts Report, Action on the Banwell Report: A Survey of the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Harold Banwell on the Placing and Management of Contracts. Economic Development Committee for Building of the National Economic Development Office).
Meanwhile, on the ground, practice continues to be driven by market forces rather than government reports because the industry's culture is so set in the habit of lowest price appointments. Having said that, Banwell's suggestion of publishing all prices submitted by participating firms is an excellent way to encourage fairer competition and was successfully adopted by many local authorities. Future improvements can only occur if the findings of research are better promoted by leading bodies such as ICE, RIBA, RICS and CIOB.
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