Obituary: Andy Watts MBE

Andy Watts MBE EngTech MCIPHE RP was a respected ambassador for the plumbing and heating industry.

His career began with a plumbing apprenticeship in the family business, Watts Brothers. On completion of his technical training at Taunton Technical College he set out on the tools. In 1966, at the age of 21, he joined the Registered Plumbers Association (RPA) as a technical assistant. His career rapidly progressed, with his mentor, Jimmy Haig, teaching him the power of networking. A year after the RPA and the Institute of Plumbing (IoP) merged, Andy succeeded Jimmy as executive director of the IoP and led the institute for 35 years.

Andy was at the helm for many memorable occasions. Developments included the introduction of the Registered Plumbing Company (RPCo) designation in 1992, and in January 1995 the introduction of the Code of Professional Standards.

Through the late 80s and early 90s Andy drove the desire to improve standards and push for registration of plumbing professionals. His knack for politics was invaluable, leading to the Institute’s involvement in the 1981 Plumbing Adjournment Debate, the 1986 Department for Environment ‘Beat the cowboys’ working group and the formation in 1987 of the Parliamentary Plumbing Registration Group, to promote statutory registration.

In the 1990s the Institute was consulted on the new water byelaws and pushed for the introduction of a new regulatory framework. In July 1999 the new Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations were introduced (Byelaws in Scotland), with the Institute’s Approved Contractor Person (ACP) scheme given government recognition a year later in 2000.

Andy oversaw an era of collaboration in the industry. But it wasn’t all plain sailing – the Institute had to modernise. Following the 1998 report, ‘Survive and Thrive’, the IoP went through a governance overhaul.

In 2000 the CIPHE was granted its coat of arms – linking the new Institute with a prestigious past. The IoP stepped forwards in 2002 with the introduction of the Women in Plumbing Group and publication of the updated Plumbing Engineering Services Design Guide. At the 2004 AGM members voted in favour of changing the IoP’s name to the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (IPHE) to better reflect the membership. It was a monumental move, the efforts of which crowned an impressive career. Prior to his retirement from the IPHE, he was instrumental in starting the process and application for the Institute to be Incorporated by Royal Charter, subsequently bestowed in 2008.

End of an era

Many in the Institute and the industry viewed his upcoming retirement in 2006 with trepidation. That assured air of authority and boisterous laugh was sure to be missed at the CIPHE head office.

However, retirement suited him well, giving him time with his family and to pursue his interests. Andy was an avid radio ham, first licensed in 1982. He was also an accomplished drummer and even played for the Queen and Prince Philip on a visit to Hornchurch in 2003.

“I will be forever grateful to Andy for the support and encouragement he gave me and especially with my apprenticeship during my early years at the Institute,” says Kevin Wellman, CIPHE CEO. “He worked tirelessly to promote standards in the public interest and on the campaign to see registration for those involved in the plumbing and heating industry.”

Our thoughts and condolences go to his widow Marjorie, his children Helen and Simon, and all his family.

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