Can you briefly describe what your role at the BMTA is, Jeff?
JL – The President’s only formal duty is to chair the Annual General Meeting. Apart from that, my role as President means I am an ambassador for the Association together with the Chair, representing it in various stakeholder forums and promoting its and its members’ interests. I am also a voice for the Association in the political and business community, raising awareness of the importance of measurement, testing and calibration to the economy in general, and consumer protection in particular.
How did you get into this profession? How long have you been working in your field?
JL – I am a chemist by profession and have worked in a number of different fields in my career.
Since leaving Swansea University in 1973 where I was a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Carbohydrate Chemistry, I worked at the Laboratory of the Government Chemist until 1984, first in food analysis and later in measurement and analysis of indoor air quality.
From 1984 until 1989 I worked at the Department of the Environment, mainly on indoor air quality and asbestos in buildings. From 1989 until 2002 I was at the Building Research Establishment as Head of Organic Materials Division, where I was concerned with the performance and durability of construction products. Following its privatisation in 1997 when BRE became BRE Ltd, I was Director of the Centre for Environment and Health, with a strong focus on sustainable buildings and indoor air quality.
In 2002 I rejoined the Civil Service as Chief Executive of what was then the National Weights and Measures Laboratory – a move into a new field of metrology for me, in which I am still involved.
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment in your career?
JL – I have numerous accomplishments of which I am proud, but perhaps the four which gave me the greatest satisfaction were:
- As part of my PhD research, making 10 compounds entirely new to mankind and publishing their properties in the literature. They were of academic interest only with no practical applications but nevertheless, I made them!
- In 1986 a small group of us published the Department of the Environment guidance booklet on asbestos materials in buildings (and how to deal with them in order to minimise the risk to health for occupants). This guidance still forms the basis of HSE’s policy and guidance today (although they have developed it quite a lot since then).
- Also in 1986, I led UK Officials in negotiations in the EU Council of Ministers on a Directive on the prevention of environmental pollution by asbestos. Despite being a politically sensitive and technically challenging issue, an agreement was reached in the Council of Ministers and, in due course, an EU Directive was published.
- Taking the Weights and Measures Laboratory from being an overlooked small Government Agency to a dynamic and profitable high performing Government Business, delivering new services with an expanded remit.
How did you get to where you are now? What was your career journey?
JL – After completing my PhD in Carbohydrate Chemistry at Swansea in 1972, I became a Post Doctoral Research Fellow.
Late in 1973, I joined what was then the Scientific Civil Service in the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (now LGC), which at that time was a Department of Trade and Industry Laboratory. In 1984 I moved to the Department of the Environment, Central Directorate of Environmental Protection in a technical policy advisory role. After a brief secondment to the Transport and Road Research Laboratory (now TRL Ltd) in 1989, I joined the Building Research Establishment which at that time was a DoE Research Laboratory. It subsequently became an Executive Agency, was privatised in 1997 and me along with it.
I left there in 2002 to become Chief Executive of the National Weights and Measures Laboratory which by then was an Executive Agency of DTI, a job that I loved. During my time there I was invited to become the UK National Member for EUROLAB and to join the BMTA Council. I retired from the Civil Service in 2007 but continued as the UK EUROLAB National Member on behalf of BMTA, and to serve on Council.
In 2008 I was invited by Council to become President and in 2009 BMTA Council appointed me Chief Executive on the demise of Tim Inman, the previous CE. I served on the EUROLAB Board for seven years and as Vice President for six, eventually standing down in 2017. I stepped down as BMTA CE at the end of 2019 when the post was abolished.
Why do you do what you do? What gets you up in the morning?
JL – After a long and varied career in which I have learned much, I like to give something back.
In my view, the measurement, testing, calibration and analysis community is very much overlooked and taken for granted in the UK. Yet it performs a vital service, underpinning consumer and environmental protection, food safety and health as well as industry and trade. I try to do as much as I can to raise the awareness of decision-makers and the public of the vital importance of metrology, the TIC sector and the people who work in it.
Why did you join BMTA?
JL – DTI and its laboratories (NPL, LGC, Warren Spring) was a founder member.
What value do you receive as a member of BMTA?
JL – Networking with other measurement and testing laboratories and the ability to engage in dialogue with Government Departments and UKAS. I also value the news and information, technical discussions including webinars, seminars and workshops.
You’re a member of the BMTA Council. Why did you join the Council?
JL – I was invited to join Council in 2006 when I was CE of NWML.
What else can you tell us about yourself?
JL – Despite my Welsh name, I am a Bristolian by birth who lived in Swansea for eight years whilst at University.
I moved to London in 1973 and now live in NW Surrey. I am married to a former nurse with a son, daughter and four grandchildren, two boys and two girls. My passion is offshore sailing. I am a member of the Civil Service Sailing Association and maintain their boat ‘Sea Essay of Hamble’ which is berthed on the River Hamble. I even get to sail it sometimes!
Other hobbies include anything to do with railways, model making and being slave labour for my wife in the garden and allotment!