HC Deb 17 April 1931 vol 251 cc507-17

I beg to move, in page 3, line 24, after the word "qualifications," to insert the words and subject to the provisions of Section six of this Act.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I accept it.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 3, line 30, after the word "diploma," to insert the words from any university in Great Britain or Northern Ireland or any degree or diploma. In the original Bill any person who has qualified for a degree or diploma at any university in Great Britain or Northern Ireland was entitled to have his name put on the register, but the Bill as it has emerged from the Committee does not contain this provision and one is therefore bound to assume that there is some doubt as to whether such a person is entitled to registration or not. I cannot find any discussion in the Committee stage which would justify this deletion, which in my opinion is a fundamental and important change. At many of our universities there are excellent schools of architecture. At Cambridge University there is a school which has been running for many years, which is attended by students from all parts of the world. There is no doubt that the standards required by the University of Cambridge, and also by other universities, for its degrees and diplomas are perfectly adequate, and the instruction is given by properly qualified persons. The study of architecture is not enclosed in a small circle. It has relation to many other branches of science, engineering, building construction, surveying, and other physical sciences, and there are no better facilities for the study of these sciences than exist at the universities.

I have little doubt that with the Bill as it stands the Architects Registration Council would not hesitate for a moment to accept and recognise the right of students who have obtained a university degree or diploma and would accept them as qualified for registration. In that case, why should not it be made perfectly clear in the Bill so that no uncertainty or doubt may exist. There are a large number of students at Cambridge and unless the Amendment is accepted doubts and fears will arise in their minds as to whether the time they have spent and the expense that has been involved in the pursuit of their studies may not be in danger of being wasted and that they may be required to attend other courses of instruction and satisfy other examinations before they may be registered. The effect of such doubts and fears may be disastrous on schools of architecture in our universities. The School at Cambridge has been built up from small beginning, at considerable expense, and if the number of students who attend is seriously diminished there will be a con- siderable waste of money and also much practical experience. I understand that the promoters of the Bill are prepared to accept the Amendment. I hope the House as a whole will accept it. There may be a suspicion that the Bill is designed to narrow the means of obtaining registration and the acceptance of the Amendment would tend to allay any suspicion of that kind.


I oppose this Amendment, not because I take any exception to what has been said by the hon. Member as to the value of the education given at the universities, but I do not see why this privileged position should be given to these particular schools as against other schools in the country. I am rather surprised that the universities are asking for this privileged position. I think it should be left as it is in the Bill at present; that is to say, "a degree or diploma recognised by the Council as qualifying for registration," which will enable those who have passed through the universities to prove to the Council that they are qualified for registration. I object to this privileged position, of which we have had so much in industry and trade, and not always to the advantage of industry and trade.


I was at first inclined to agree entirely to the proposal contained in the Amendment, and I am certainly not finding fault with its intention, but I must make it quite clear what we are doing if we accept it. We are legislating for 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ahead, and we are laying down quite definitely that whatever the standard of qualification may be in the universities it shall be recognised by the Council. In the main the standard of qualification at the universities will tend to increase, but it is certainly not wise for the House of Commons to insist that whatever the standard of qualification may be it must be recognised as qualifying a man for registration. I think it is infinitely better to leave it as it is. I think that the Council, which meets from year to year, and which is in touch with all the latest thought in architecture, and the standards of qualification, will be able to settle whether or not the standard of a university or school has been degraded so far, that it should not be further recognised. If this Amendment were passed, it would tie the hands of the council for 50 years ahead and I hope that on second thoughts the hon. Member will not press it.


I also hope that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. G. Wilson) will not press this Amendment. I am sure that no council would ever dream of disregarding a diploma or degree from any of the universities, and it seems to me that the Bill, as it stands, covers everything that is necessary. In the interests of saving time, I ask the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment.


If I understood correctly the words of the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. McShane), he used the expression that the standard of the University of Cambridge or any university standard, would tend to increase.


I said that we all recognised that in the main they would tend to increase, but that there might be cases in which they would become degraded.

Mr. SAMUEL I agree with the hon. Member's view that the tendency would be for the standard to increase, and, if we can do anything to improve this Bill by including institutions where the standard will increase, then so much the better for architecture. Architecture is the mistress of all the arts, and, if we can secure that the training or initiation of those entering the profession, shall be carried out in universities where the standard is increasing, then so much the better for the practice of the art in this country. We should be very unwise not to give every encouragement to young men who wish to study architecture, and who look to the universities as places where they can obtain the qualification necessary for their inclusion in this register. For that reason, I think that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. G. Wilson) is well founded in his views and I hope that the House will support him.


I desire to support the Amendment, and I am bound to say that I heard with some degree of alarm the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. McShane) in the closing words of his speech when he suggested that a professional council should be entitled to set the standard for universities in this country in any matter concerned with education.


Not a professional council.


I refer to this Registration Council. Take the profession to which my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall and I belong, and the Register of Teachers. The one qualification is that they shall have obtained a degree or diploma of one of the universities. That is the standard set for them. The diploma is left entirely to the university concerned. I know that there are universities and universities, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall and I had before us a series of applications from teachers for a post, and if there was a diploma in one case from University A, and another in another case from University B, we might be inclined to consider one rather more valuable than the other. But neither of us would desire that the Teachers' Registration Council itself should say what the standard demanded by the university ought to be. I support the Amendment for another reason. I desire to see the universities more and more concerned with the education of young persons intended for every walk of life, and I believe that legislation during the past 30 years has made that more and more possible. Especially do I desire to see the two great residential universities of this country concerned more and more with the practical affairs of life rather than simply with literature, mathematics and the classics, those three particularly useless things—



12 n.


I might at least be allowed to finish my statement. I was saying that these particularly useless things, in the way of earning a living—outside of journalism and book-making—have far too long monopolised the attention of the universities. Anything which this House can do to make it plain that it desires the active co-operation of these great places of general learning in the setting of higher professional standards, is desirable, and I sincerely hope that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. G. Wilson) will secure the adhesion of the House to his Amendment.


I have listened to this Debate without any preconceived opinions at all, and it appears to me, looking at the Bill and at the Amendment, that the Bill is right as it stands. The provision in the Bill is that a person is to be registered as an architect if he has any degree or diploma recognised by the council. It is now proposed by the Amendment that a person should be recognised and accepted for registration if he has a diploma or degree, not recognised by the council, but given by a university. I do not see why there should be a kind of side avenue to registration. The promoters of the Bill have established very elaborate machinery for deciding who should and should not register, and now the House is being asked to "give the go-by" to the whole of that machinery, and to say that any university, not merely Oxford or Cambridge, but any of the minor universities, may set up an architectural school and that its diploma, whatever its standard may be, is to be accepted as qualifying for the architectural profession. If the standard does, in fact, rise, or is maintained at a higher level, then of course the council will recognise that diploma or degree, but we cannot foresee with certainty what the future will be, and all our universities, however admirable their work, are not up to the standard of Oxford and Cambridge. Therefore it appears to me to be right to leave the matter as the Committee upstairs proposed it should be left, to the council to decide. With regard to other professions, the medical or legal professions, for example, to the best of my knowledge, while university degrees are taken into account, I do not think that the ultimate decision is ever left to a university as to whether a person who has passed through that university's course should be admitted to practice as a lawyer or as a doctor. But it is left to the Inns of Court, or whatever the authority may be, to decide finally how far the studies of the students at the university should qualify for the profession. It appears to me that that precedent should apply here.


The Amendment seems to introduce a certain snobbishness. An hon. Member who spoke from this side talked about University A and University B, but he forgot to mention University C 3. We want to see all educational institutions giving more attention to the really practical things of life. While it is essential to have classics and mathematics for recreation in the evenings or early mornings, we need to pay much more attention to education of all kinds for the eight hours day. No paragraph in any Bill could be wider than the one which the Mover of the Amendment seeks to amend. What he is asking is that there shall be certain rights established apart from the provisions of the Bill. That is the snobbery. If we are going to have anything that will make the road equally easy for all grades, we must watch this kind of Amendment. All the brains are not in the house where the father or mother can afford to send a man to a university. There are brains in houses where it takes the parents all their time to give their children ordinary schooling. I have been sufficiently long in public life before coming to this House to know what sometimes goes on in committees which have to make appointments for various professions. I know exactly what is meant by the prejudice of men sitting on these committees—men who themselves are university men, and vote with their prejudice rather than from appreciation of the cause of others who have not been to universities. I hope that every working-class Member of the House will see that the Amendment is defeated.


I would draw the attention of objectors to the Amendment to the fact that under Clause 5 it applies, in the first instance, only to those appointed by the admission committee, and that that committee will act only for a relatively short space of time, probably two years. I believe the promoters of the Bill originally desired a period of five years. If the objectors will look also at Clause 7 they will find that a board of architectural education is to be formed and that that board will arrange qualifications, including the passing of any examinations. That will mean that, in addition to these diplomas, the people who desire registration would be subject to some examination. On this point I would quote the precedent of another institution, the Institution of Civil Engineers, which admits diplomas from certain universities, honours degrees taken at Oxford or Cambridge, for instance, among others. But in addition candidates have to sit for examination. In a kindred profession such as architecture it is certain that a further examination would require to be passed by those who wish to become registered architects. I think, therefore, that the objection to the Amendment is not a valid objection, but if it has any validity at all it is only during the period of two years for those who already happen to have these particular qualifications.


These Clauses refer only to those who are practising or are about to practice until this new Council comes into existence. It is common, in all the attempts that are made to pick out professions, and give some guarantee to the country at large that the registered members will be people with qualifications, to have some mode of admission. There are people practising to-day as architects who are eminently qualified by their experience to become registered as architects when this Bill is passed, and some of them will not have university qualifications. I understand that there are several examining bodies now with members admitted on certain terms. If you are going to put in a limiting provision of this kind, the Council will find that a number of persons practising to-day and possessing perhaps a diploma issued by some other body—it may be an incorporated body—will be excluded because they have not a university diploma. I think the proposal limits and ties the Council too much.

Surely this is to be a responsible body? If you are going to prescribe, before the Council comes into existence, exactly the terms upon which it is to admit persons to the profession, you are going to limit it and make it rather an unimaginative official body, whose simple duty will be to register people who come along with the qualifications that this House has laid down rather than those laid down by itself. That would be a mistake. The Council will have in view all the ideas and wishes that we have expressed in this House with regard to architects having the artistic sense. We all know perfectly well that architects practising in the past without any limit to their right to practise have afflicted some awful atrocities on the community. The new Council will be quite aware of that fact and will be only too anxious to raise the artistic level of members of the profession. We might easily leave the matter to the Council. Give it a margin in which it can work, and with that margin the Council will be a live body rather than a mere registering body.

Finally, I want to say that everyone is aware that among university graduates there is a tendency for graduates to get into commercial life because they are graduates. There has been an appeal made to large business proprietors to take into some of their leading positions the graduates of universities, to give them a nominal salary, and gradually to work them up into positions of importance in commerce. If you are going to place limitations of this kind, and that tendency should grow and by and by there should be a close profession of commercial superintendents or something of that kind of commercial degree, and if you are going to limit it entirely to those coming from the universities, you are going to put too big a strain upon the universities to begin with and you are going to limit far too much the opportunities of entering the different professions. I hope the Amendment will be lost, because I think it is an unnecessary limitation on the province of the Council that is to be set up.


If I understand the purpose of the Amendment, I think some of the comments upon it, favourable or otherwise, have rather taken the wrong end of the stick'. The last speaker represented the Amendment as an attempt to give exclusive privileges to persons who had got a more expensive form of training at Oxford, tending to the exclusion of poverty-stricken working-class candidates, but if I am informed rightly as to what really underlies this Amendment, it is this, that at Cambridge University they have established an architectural diploma which has to be qualified for in three years, whereas the newer universities, such as Liverpool, of which the large majority of the students are sent from the elementary schools, require five years for their architectural diploma, so that I am doubtful as to the wisdom of the Amendment, but for reasons opposite to those given by some of its opponents.

I doubt whether it is wise to set up the possibility, though it is probably rather remote, of competition between universities to cheapen the diplomas, but if you are to have a Council at all, that body ought to be able to set up a standard of qualification, and it is exceedingly unlikely that any university should fail to conform to a standard that is required and judged as necessary by such a body as this Council. But if it should be that you have an architectural department in a particular university dominated perhaps by a strong personality, who wants to increase the size of his department at the expense of its efficiency, then you may conceivably have a diploma of an inadequate character given by a university at the end of an inadequate period of training, which, just because it is a university diploma, can go over the heads of better diplomas established by the Council. For that reason, which is the opposite reason to that which has been put forward by some of its opponents, I suggest that the Bill is probably better without the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

May I ask the House to come to a decision now on this point and not to waste further time on a matter which is of very little importance? I would say, on behalf of the promoters, that they have an absolutely open mind in regard to it, and I feel that the present wording of the Bill clearly covers the point. I hope the matter may be decided without further discussion.


Having expressed the view that I have and illustrated the point that I wished to make, I am prepared to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE

I beg to move, in page 4, line 8, after the word "in," to insert the words "Part I of."

This is merely a drafting Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: in page 4, line 9, after the word "Act," insert the words: and twelve members appointed in accordance with Part II of that Schedule."—[Lieut.-Colonel Moore.]