Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Andrew Tait

Andrew Tait, who died on March 13 aged 88, was the former director-general and chairman of the National House-Building Council (NHBC) and has been credited with ending the practice of “jerry-building” in Britain; he later served as deputy chairman of the house-builders Barratt. 

Andrew Tait Andrew Tait

At the NHBC, Tait made it his business to improve the quality of new homes, introducing 10-year legal and insurance protection which benefited millions of British purchasers.
It has been a model for new home warranty programmes in Australia, Canada, Eire, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden — and in the United States, whose government circulated a memorandum commending the NHBC initiatives as an example of responsible free enterprise.
Tait believed that good regulation depended more on common sense than on an over-fussy adherence to rules. He emphasised that NHBC inspectors were not enemies of the builders or “snoopers”, but allies helping to improve the industry’s reputation and, therefore, the value of new houses. Good builders would be welcome; bad builders would not.
He introduced the successful “Pride in the Job” campaign which rewarded good builders with certificates, badges, ties, pullovers and — for national and regional winners — green blazers which were presented at a ceremony at a London hotel.
A keen golfer, he got the last idea from the green jacket awarded to the winner of the Masters golf tournament in America.
In 1979, confident that standards had now improved, Tait advised the NHBC that it should apply for government approval to be its own insurance company.
This was granted, and three decades on the NHBC has assets of more than £1.5 billion to assure adequate protection for home buyers.
Andrew Wilson Tait was born on September 25 1922 and educated at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh, where he had a “voice like a circular saw” (the music master) and the “best memory since the legendary Sir John Anderson 20 years earlier” (the history master). After wartime service in the Army he went up to Edinburgh University, where he edited the student magazine and took a First in History. A spell as a leader writer on The Scotsman was followed by an invitation to run the Scottish Information Office.
Tuberculosis was then prevalent, notably in the cities, and it was decided that it would be helpful if a majority of adults could be persuaded to have a chest X-ray. Tait decided to combine an appeal to reason with a dash of fun. More than 50,000 volunteers were recruited; logos on pavements read: “Let’s stamp out TB”; masked men gave random prizes only to those wearing the “X-rayed” badge of honour. In Glasgow, 715,000 were X-rayed in five weeks; the habit of spitting in public began to decline, as did the incidence of the disease. Similar results were achieved in other cities.
While at the Scottish Office, Tait was sent to the United States to investigate health education; his report was one of the factors which led to the establishment of the Health Education Council, now part of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
In 1962 he was ahead of his time with a plan to halve the number of smokers. His proposal that the price of cigarettes should be doubled — the idea being that the number of smokers would be halved while the tax revenue would remain about the same — was supported by the Scottish Office but rejected by Whitehall.
In 1964 Tait left the Scottish Office to join the NHBC as director-general; he served as its chairman from 1984 to 1987. After retiring from the NHBC, Tait was a director of Barratt (1988-96) and its deputy chairman from 1991. Sir Lawrie Barratt declared: “He saved the group by his leadership in the house-building collapse of 1990.”
Tait was also chairman of the New Homes Environmental Group from 1988 to 1991.
He continued to enjoy golf into his eighties, playing four rounds a week and carrying his own clubs. He was the author of Keep Young and Zimmer Free, published in 2010. He was appointed OBE in 1967.
Andrew Tait, married, in 1954, Elizabeth MacLennan, who survives him with two daughters and a stepdaughter.

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