§ 11.0 p.m.
§ The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Reginald Freeson)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of EEC Document COM(67)155, on the Mutual Recognition of Architectural Qualifications, and the Secretary of State for the Environment's Supplementary Memorandum together with Annex A to that document dated 4th April 1977 and Supplementary Memorandum dated 28th November 1977.Tonight we are concerned with a draft EEC directive on the mutual recognition of architects' qualifications. This is to enable the free movement of qualified architects within the European Economic Community.
In previous debates on subsidiary European legislation the House has rightly insisted on having before it all relevant documents. This motion invites the House to consider an original text which the Commission tabled in 1967, an explanatory memorandum provided in April this year, and particularly Annex A to that memorandum. This annex is a radically revised text of the draft directive, which the Government made available to the Scrutiny Committee in April. Formally, that text remains a working document and is not an official Commission proposal. In addition, the motion refers to an explanatory memorandum dated this month to which I shall refer later. To complete the picture, hon. Members will have found in the Vote Office some other relevant papers, including two reports by the House's Select Committee on European Legislation, one in 1975 and the second in 1977, and the written and oral evidence which that Committee considered in 1975.
For our purposes tonight I direct hon. Members' attention to Annex A. This is the working draft directive on which negotiations have concentrated, and which the nine member States are asked to agree.
The draft directive is similar to others for the mutual recognition of doctors' nurses' and lawyers' qualifications. Its objective is to allow architects with the appropriate qualifications to offer their services anywhere in the Community. This will provide new opportunities for British architects to offer their services 662 or to practise abroad, and is something which we can all support. It is certainly supported by architects' professional bodies with which we have kept in close touch throughout the negotiations. They welcome the new opportunities the directive would provide. However, we must ensure that the directive does not lead to a lowering of standards. This has been our prime objective during the negotiations.
As is clear from the documents I listed, the proposal for such a directive has a long history. It was originally tabled as long ago as 1967. By the time Britain joined the Community the Six had reached a fair measure of agreement, although there remained some serious reservations. After our accession the proposal was put back into the melting-pot.
In early 1975 two decisions of the European Court effectively laid down that all discriminatory treatment based on nationality with regard to establishing and providing services was ruled out. As a result, the original 1967 document was entirely recast and became the draft directive which is effectively Annex A—the document that we are debating tonight. Its scope is summarised in the covering explanatory memorandum.
When the Select Committee on European Legislation first considered the draft directive in 1975 it drew attention to four areas in which problems were likely to arise. These were: the acceptability of the qualifications which member States put forward for recognition; the place of practical experience in architectural training; the setting up of an effective advisory committee and adequate professional discipline over architects from other member States who wish to provide services in the United Kingdom. In subsequent negotiations we have concentrated on these four areas and have gained much of what we wanted.
We have got explicit recognition of the need for practical experience at an appropriate level. In this country we do not believe that an architect can become fully qualified on the basis of academic training. We insist on a period of practical training to complement the university or other course. The directive will now allow us to require proof of practical experience from any European architect—no matter how strong 663 his paper qualifications—before he is put on the register in this country.
Secondly, we have agreement to a process of registration even where an architect does not seek to establish himself in another member State, but only to provide services there. This is essential to ensure that European architects are subject to the same disciplinary procedures as our own.
Thirdly, there is agreement on the role of the advisory committee in watching over standards in education and training of architects. The advisory committee is the means for our profession to be directly involved in examining and publishing the lists of those qualifications which are to be mutually recognised and for ensuring that they meet the criteria set out in Articles 3 and 4.
In this connection, Article 8 of the text before us has now been expanded so that if there are doubts about a diploma meeting the appropriate criteria the advisory committee will be invited to give its opinion. These provisions and, indeed, the setting up of an advisory committee are warmly supported by the profession in the United Kingdom.
However, I should say that we have not achieved everything that we set out to get. One outstanding difficulty concerns the central question of standards. The particular issue is the acceptability of the three-year academic courses provided in the German Fachhochschulen —its building high schools—compared with a minimum of four years and a norm of five elsewhere. There is now general agreement among the member States on a basic minimum standard of four years of academic training at university level.
In the United Kingdom architects have to do seven years to qualify for registration, with a minimum of four years of university training and at least two years of practical experience. These are, clearly, far more exacting qualifying standards than the three-year German courses, and the profession considers that to accept them within the terms of the directive, unless they are supplemented in some way to bring them to an acceptable level, will amount to an erosion of standards.
The Government agree with the profession. This is the issue that is holding 664 up agreement on this directive. There have been many discussions of this problem. On at least two separate occasions the United Kingdom Government's representatives, together with representatives from the United Kingdom profession, have met their German opposite numbers to explore the possibilities and to ensure that each side understands the views of the other.
The German Government have now made proposals to supplement the three-year Fachhochschulen courses by two years of practice which would include further courses of study. We and the other member States are now considering whether their proposals are adequate.
I recommend the draft directive to the attention of the House. I am anxious to have the views of the House since, subject to the satisfactory completion of the negotiations, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers is anxious to bring the proposals before a meeting shortly.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones (Daventry)
The Opposition join the Government in welcoming this draft EEC directive concerning the architectural profession. It is appropriate to congratulate those who have been engaged in the long-drawn-out negotiations which have gone on way back to 16th May 1967. Those who have represented the profession are due the thanks of the House, as are those from the Department who have been involved.
From reading the complicated issues involved it seems that considerable progress along the lines that we have required has been made. This is a tribute to our institutions and to the advocacy of those concerned.
The Minister says that the text now before us is a radically revised version of the earlier one. That is true. But, as he said, there are reservations about it which in the main reflect the views of the RIBA and the registration council.
The Minister mentioned the German high schools and the reservations which are held in that respect. If this is an example of the time required, there is a great deal to be said for looking for ways of speeding up negotiations of this sort, which are more firmly based than some of the provisional arrangements.
We may find that the other professions have greater difficulty than the architects 665 have had. I wonder whether the Government are seeking ways by which the procedures can be improved. That is a tall order, but there is no doubt that the procedure is long drawn out. I agree with the Minister that the concern of the registration council and of the RIBA is to ensure that architectural standards in education and training are in no way eroded.
The reference is only to the self-employed, but chapter 6 of the final provisions refer to the directive extending the benefit to salaried architects. This issue caused concern earlier. The difficulties are that there are no legal restrictions in the United Kingdom on the right of individuals, United Kingdom nationals or otherwise, to engage in architectural activities. However, the right to bear the title "architect" is protected by a series of architects registration Acts stretching from 1931 to 1969. It was as recent as 1938 that people were allowed to become architects without having to pass a test of ability. That rested mainly on practical experience. That is a course that most professional bodies follow in their formative years to permit those who practised hitherto to continue doing so.
I was interested in what the Minister said about the advisory committee. Certainly that has been a feature of RIBA practice for many years. Here there is considerably more work to be done. As I understand it, the RIBA adopts an elabourate procedure. The institute endeavours to monitor schools, of which I think about 33 are recognised. It endeavours to monitor standards at least every five years. I understand that schools are visited, that staffing ratios are considered and accommodation is inspected, and that relationships between local education authorities and Government Departments come into the inquiries that are made in an endeavour to help schools. This amounts to an inspectorate.
I should be interested to know whether it is likely that some such inspectorate, which has been recognised as necessary in this country, will be implemented throughout the EEC. Perhaps that could be a long-term objective. I do not say that it should be initially. It would be interesting to know the Government's views in that respect.
There are inter-recognition agreements for architects between the United King- 666 dom and the United States of America. There are links and relationships with about 170 schools throughout the world. This is a reflection of the historic role of the United Kingdom and one of its professional institutions. I wonder to what extent the United Kingdom's role in that respect has been part of the negotiations. Are we trying to protect, within the Community, the relationship that the United Kingdom has enjoyed world wide in architecture? Is there felt to be some responsibility upon the United Kingdom to ensure, in the long run, a wider applicability of the provisions that are now emerging?
At the European level, concern has been expressed about not only the German high school but other "parallel" professions. The consulting engineers are working in the same field in construction. It is thought that their activities might be restricted. I understand that the circumstances are peculiar to Italy, where, by registered architects, carrying out architectural work. I think that the directive covers that point, but in this country also we have chartered surveyors, who are not registered architects, carrying out architectural work. I would not like to think that some of our institutions are being less generously treated than their counterparts in the Community. Here one might be touching on the matter of acquired rights, and I think it is important for these considerations to be borne in mind. The documents do not reveal this. The question may have been dealt with, although not publicised.
Courses abroad vary greatly. The Minister referred to the Fachhochschulen, which I have also mentioned. I understand that in Italy a very small number of people are qualifying as architects. The construction engineering profession, to which I have referred, has a State examination which I understand is to some extent directed towards architectural qualifications.
It is to be welcomed that the Germans are proposing that their high school students should have a broader-based curriculum for the attainment of their professional competence. I understand from the latest document that the German Government have made proposals for supplementing and upgrading the courses, and that these are still being considered. 667 We are told that the text of Article 4 in Annex A is subject to revision to reflect the outcome of whatever is agreed on this point.
The Minister referred briefly to members of the Community wanting to come here in a professional capacity and to practise for a short time. This is the Prestation de Services. One of the terms set out in the Treaty of Rome requires a member State to grant a national of any other member State the freedom to provide temporary services in that country without submitting to the formalities required for establishment there. An architect can therefore provide services in any country repeatedly and throughout his working life. Let us suppose that a member of one of the Community States comes here and applies for temporary registration. Will it be possible for the registration council here to require a fee to be paid in order to cover the costs of registration? That point has not been covered.
I am very pleased to see that the five unresolved issues that were referred to in the earlier papers have in the main now been resolved. We certainly welcome the setting up of the advisory committee.
There are two general points that I wish to make. The most recent paper that has been put in the Vote Office, dated, I think, Monday of this week, was not signed by the Minister. At least my copy was not. The Minister signed the papers of March 1975 and 4th April this year, but there is only a typed name at the bottom of the paper this time. I am not sure what protocol demands, but I take it—[Interruption.] The copy that I have received does not bear the Minister's signature. The paper that the Minister is holding up looks like an earlier paper, which does not quite match up to the single sheet. What I have received is the single sheet dated Monday 28th November. This is a minor point, and I shall not press it. However, some of my hon. Friends feel that it ought to bear the Minister's signature, and I think it is right that the responsibility should be his rather than the Department's.
Another question that has been brought to my attention—I only repeat the information that has reached me—concerns an English text of the most recent direc- 668 tive. I understand that one is not available and has not been made available to the registration council or to the RIBA. Certainly no copies are available in the Library, nor have they been made available to hon. Members.
There is one copy of the French original, according to my information, but there is a difficulty in translation, and when one is dealing with issues of this sort one may find that compromise is necessary. That led me to look up the meaning of "compromise" in the Oxford Dictionary. It is quite an interesting point. The Oxford Dictionary defines "compromise" as:To adjust or to settle difference between parties".The French Dictionary—which is on the shelf below, if any hon. Member wishes to check it—defines "compromise" as:An arrangement to submit an affair for arbitration. To compound.I make the point only that it is necessary to have an English translation so that those who read through the documents know whether "compromise" is used in the English sense or the French sense, because the examples that I have given show some differences in the significance of the use of that word.
It is unfortunate that no English version is available. I think that is a reasonable criticism to make. I say no more than that. But when those who have been involved in this have given so much time to it—I know that this is tied up somewhat with the order of proceedings in the House—
§ Mr. Jones
That is true. We are considering the qualifications of architects, but I do not think the debate is solely about that, otherwise I would have great difficulty in saying what the qualifications of architects were. As I understand it, we are dealing with this very complicated "compromis" or "compromise", whereby the differing practices of this important profession are to be harmonised within the Community.
I found it very interesting to read the closing paragraph of the annual report of the European affairs committee of the Royal Institution of British Architects 669 and the Architects Registration Council of the United Kingdom. The chairman was Mr. A. J. Gordon. The conclusion stated thatIt is easy to get depressed at the slowness of progress on the directives and the risks of decisions being made for political rather than professional reasons. But anyone acquainted with international negotiations knows that the problems of language and of national patterns of education, law and practice, all valid in their own circumstances, make it extremely difficult to reach agreement at all quickly. Patience and a willingness to discover the reasons behind the difficulties is essential. Often it is UK practices and customs which bewilder our European colleagues. It is always necessary to retain the image of the long-term objectives in the middle of short-term frustrations.That was a plea from the heart from those who have been involved in these long-drawn-out negotiations. I am not sure whether Mr. Gordon has been chairman all the time. It is good to recognise that those who have been involved in these procedures are now well on the way to success. It is a tribute to all those involved in these time-consuming negotiations. They are to be congratulated and complimented on it.
§ 11.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)
The House knows that I am a director of a house-building company, although I am not and have never been an architect, and I therefore have no direct financial interest in this matter.
As the Minister has said, we do not need to waste too much time on Document 67/155, which was obviously totally unsatisfactory for British conditions. This new draft directive is a much more serious proposal, and I should not like anyone in the House to think that it is not an important matter, or that the directive is a waste of time. I certainly envisage EEC architects wanting to come here to practise, and vice versa.
During the EEC property boom between 1971 and 1973 many British developers went to the EEC, particularly to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Usually, when they were there they tended to retain local professional architects, although some took their own quantity surveyors and project managers because those disciplines were not then usual in the EEC construction process.
Nor should we underestimate the importance of the architect in the EEC. Take the Federal Republic of Germany, 670 for example. There are relatively few general contractors there. The industry is organised largely on a trade-contractor basis, with the representative of the architect on the site—the "bauträger"—co-ordinating which trade contractors should be working on the site at any one time.
The building regulations there vary from region to region, and the use of an architect, with the very heavy indemnity policies statutorily required, is virtually universal. There are between 40,000 and 120,000 architects in West Germany, depending on whether one regards the qualification of the Fachhochschulen as genuine for the title of architect.
We would say that many of their owner-occupied houses were over-specified, but if a British developer did try to build houses there, which some of us, myself included, seriously contemplated in 1972, we would need an architect to design them, which we do not necessarily need in this country. A British architect, able to work with a British developer but speaking German and knowing the German building laws, would have been invaluable then, and I have no doubt that he will be invaluable in future.
This is far from a theoretical or impractical matter. It could happen and probably will happen, so it is important to get it right. In my view it is certainly not right at the moment, as the Minister half-conceded in his opening remarks. The proposals to recognise the courses of the Fachhochschulen in their present form are totally unacceptable and should be resisted by the Government.
The RIBA, in the material that it has submitted to me, said that the RIBA and the ARCUK still hope that the Germans will be persuaded to raise their standards. If they do not, they feel that the low standard will be totally unacceptable, even on the basis of not having a directive.
If this directive goes through, the people concerned will remain architects, and their training will obviously have been influenced by the theoretical and practical considerations of Article 3.
What concerns me apart from this Fachhochschulen question is not the transferability of degrees and diplomas —that has been going on in Europe since the time of the wandering scholars 671 in the Middle Ages—but rather the vague and ill-defined proposals in Article 20, which the Minister's supplementary memorandum to the Scrutiny Committee says remain unfinalised. These are the proposals for what, as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) pointed out, the Treaty of Rome calls "prestation de services" or provision of services.
At present, the use of the word "architect" is illegal in Britain for any persons other than those on the register of architects maintained by the Architects Registration Council of the United Kingdom —ARCUK—set up by an Act in 1931, amended in 1938. There are about 25,000 registered people, of whom 22,000 are also members of the RIBA. As such, they are bound by codes of professional conduct which lay down certain detailed and specific requirements.
Under draft Article 20 of the directive, a member State which requires of its own nationals that they be authorised by, members of, or registered with, a professional organisation or body has to dispense with that requirement, though the person concerned is apparently to be subject to the rules of conduct of a professional or administrative nature that apply in that member State. Now, what can that mean?
Let us suppose that Herr Braun, with an acceptable architectural qualification from one of the technische hochschulen listed in Article 10, comes to Britain to design an extension to a German-owned company's factory in, say, Birmingham. Would he be required to register with ARCUK? As I understand Article 20, the answer is "No". If not, and if he followed the procedure of declarations and documentation listed in Article 20 (2) and (3), how could he, in practice, be bound by ARCUK's code of professional conduct?
Let us move to a more topical and sensitive issue. Under both the ARCUK and the RIBA codes—which are virtually identical—an architect is required in rule 3.2 touphold and apply the recognised Conditions of Engagement".Rule 3.3 specifically rules out competition on price between architects. As the House knows, the Monopolies Commis- 672 sion has recommended the abolition of the mandatory fee scale system and, in a half-baked and largely discredited report, has recommended a voluntary fee scale system instead. It would be neither appropriate nor in order for me to say too much about the report now, though I believe that implementation of its recommendations would be bad for architects, architecture and the public interest. I hope that the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection and the Director General of Fair Trading will do nothing in a hurry on this matter.
Changes may be possible, but not along the lines of that draft report. Let us suppose that nothing is done and that the present rules regarding fees remain unchanged. Would Herr Braun, even though he had not joined ARCUK or RIBA and was not bound by their code of practice, be required to stick to the mandatory fee scale contained in the conditions of engagement? If not, would he be allowed to engage in price competition at a time when his English colleagues could not? If he were bound in some way, how could this be enforced? Can someone besubject to the rules of conductin the words of the draft Article 20,If he is not required to be a member of the organisation responsible for the rules and, indeed, is not a member? I suggest that it would be difficult to justify such a situation in law or equity.
Indeed, in law, the directive will presumably override the Architects Registration Act, since Herr Braun could not legally call himself an architect in Britain. unless he had registered or unless the directive allowed him to do so—at which hon. Members will prick up their ears for another auto-da-fé against the federalist heresy.
The preamble to the directive and Article 20 needs fairly substantial redrafting and should certainly not pass in its present form. I suggest that we should be working on three basic principles. First, it is desirable that appropriately-qualified people should be allowed to practise as architects in other EEC countries provided that their qualifications really are appropriate.
Secondly, they should be allowed to exercise those qualifications in another country only if they register as architects 673 under the laws and procedures of the host country and are specifically bound by any codes or rules that bind other registered architects.
Thirdly, registration should not be refused to anyone who can produce the requisite documentation, but should be a largely automatic process, unless there are grounds for believing that there has been some illegal or disgraceful behaviour, as suggested in Articles 15 and 16.
I suggest to the Minister that if that general registration procedure were followed there would be no question but that architects would all be working on the same fair basis of competition in the EEC. But if the requirements were to be "abolished", as the preamble on page 5 says, a potentially shambolic situation could arise, which would not be in the wider public interest. I do not know whether people take much notice of what the House says in these matters—I hope they do—or, indeed, whether this directive will ever become law, but I hope that it will be felt that the few practical points that I have made have not come amiss in the House's contribution to the important issues involved.
§ 11.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
I am sure that we would all commend my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) on his expert knowledge of this subject and of the specifics of this directive. I want to intervene to add one or two words to what has been said particularly by hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, but also by the Minister. This is one example of the late-night scrutiny that this House tries to carry out, effectively, half-effectively, or not very well; but at least this House tries to do it, whereas other Parliaments do not.
This is another example of a piece of important harmonisation emanating from the Commission. In this case it is not a standard harmonisation of Common Market norms and rules and regulations, or the commercial regulations that we are used to seeing from the Commission; it concerns the harmonisation of professional qualifications, which is still very much foreign territory for us in this Parliament and for the Commission and the European Community, and therefore it needs to be treated with the degree of 674 care and special concern that we always strive for.
The only occasion on which we had this sort of thing before was in the debate, some years ago, on the harmonisation of qualifications for doctors practising in the member States, and the related papers concerning dentists. But in this case different arguments arise.
We are all grateful for what my hon. Friend said in highlighting some of the arguments. We note that the RIBA and the registration council are admittedly very much in favour of the principle and the broad outline of the directive—by which I mean the latest document rather than the original document—but we are somewhat uneasy about several points of detail.
From the point of view of the document itself and its presentation, this House is labouring under a disadvantage, in that we are relying on a text that originally was in a different language—one of the seven authorised languages of the Community. This may seem a small point, but it is a significant one, which confronts Ministers when they go to meetings of the Council to determine the final outcome of these directives.
The acceptability of many clauses depends largely on the wording of the translation originaly made. The final text will not be available until after the debate. We see here a specific example of the disadvantage under which we are continually labouring.
I want to make a point about the advisory committee and to say a word in support of the stand of the RIBA and the registration council on this matter.
The concept that there should be a provision for regular visits by legally endowed inspectors with full discretionary powers to maintain the standards in architectural schools is essentially foreign to the other member States. We know that the British institutions—I am not being simply chauvinistic here—have effectively the highest standards in Europe. It is not realistic to expect that such an inspection system is likely to be established by the directive. At least we have the reserve option in Article 2. It is possible to return to that system later. I hope that when the Minister goes to the Council of Environmental Ministers he will be able to argue this point strongly. 675 There is also the question of the Part 3 examination and its relationship to the two-year practical training scheme for British architects before final registration. This is a wholly desirable element in the total examination setting and I am sure that most people—many in the member States—would privately agree, although there is an official stance against this, that the aim of the practical training—to test students in legal matters, contract law, byelaws, administration, binding together academic and practical training —is notably absent in the other member States. I believe that they lose substantially as a result.
It is a pity that there is not a more positive attitude in the other member States about what we regard as a wholly indispensable item. The RIBA and the registration council are to be congratulated on being seemingly determined not to abandon their traditional adherence to their high standards. It reamins to be seen what will happen. The directive is not yet agreed. More discussion has to take place. Perhaps the Minister will say how he feels this will be finally decided.
The Fachhochschulen have been dealt with in the debate and I do not intend to add to what has been said, except to express my anxieties. One important point not touched on so far is the question, which arose in the doctors' harmonisation directive, of language qualifications. Article 26 says thatMember States shall see to it that, where appropriate, the persons concerned acquire, in their own interest and in that of their clients, the linguistic knowledge needed to follow their profession in the host country.That is framed in a wide manner. I wonder what it will mean. I imagine that this could be one of the most important practical demonstrations of the future of realistic harmonisation of standards and freedom to establish by architects from other countries.
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Freeson
I shall take close note of the points that have been raised and study the text after the debate. All points will be borne in mind in the continued negotiations. There are one or two points with which I can reasonably deal now. The hon. Members for Daventry (Mr. 676 Jones) and Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) touched on the creation of an inspectorate system under the aegis of the proposed advisory committee system for checking on standards in schools. As the document indicates, this is a matter for consideration. I only say at this stage that I feel a little diffident about this. We have enough problems in trying to establish some common ground on the areas that have been referred to already. It is a worthwhile objective to which to return at some stage, but I do not think that we want to pop it back into the negotiations in the immediate future.
The hon. Member for Daventry referred to the position in Italy. The directive relates only to architects and not to associated or overlapping professions. There is recognition in the draft of the special position in Italy. We had to take account of that because of the professional organisation in that country. Beyond that, we shall not be covering those people who, to quote the hon. Gentleman, do architectural or associated work in co-operation with architects or for architects. We have consulted the professions here, and they are content with our dealing with this matter of the Italian engineers in the way that we have. We have a formal Council statement that the position of other professions is not affected.
The hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) referred to the rules about temporary registration. These have not yet been worked out, but it will be difficult to gain support for the idea of fee charging. I think that we have done pretty well to get temporary registration at all. The hon. Gentleman made an illustrative point, and I adopt it for the purpose of my reply. Herr Braun would have to register in this country if he came here to design the extension of a factory or other building owned by a German company here. He would have to come under the temporary registration scheme.
The hon. Gentleman also asked how much further down the road we should go in the control of standards, and whether we should pursue the registration of foreign architects within our own national system. I take note of what he said. However, if we open up too many of these deeper questions at this stage we shall make it much more difficult to 677 establish some common ground on the areas that we are still seeking to negotiate. I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and I shall bear it in mind.
§ Mr. Michael Latham
Is the Minister's proposal for temporary registration with the Department of the Environment or with the Commission?
§ Mr. Freeson
It will be with our own profession, in effect. What has so far developed in this has been done in full consultation with the registration council and the RIBA. But it is not only a matter of consultation. They are in agreement with the line that we have taken so far. We shall have to see how the rules work out in detail, but clearly we shall develop that further in close consultation with them.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones
If there is to be registration, surely there would be no objection to a reasonable fee. I realise that we have done well to get this far, but does the Minister feel strongly about this?
§ Mr. Freeson
I am sure that people in Brussels read Hansard and that they will be aware of that view. It is a fair point to make, but we have enough difficulty, without our loading in additional problems. However, that is not to say that it is an unreasonable argument. We must keep our eye on the ball. There is the central problem that every hon. Member has raised about standards, to which I have referred. That is the thing on which to resolve.
The point about the text was mentioned by several hon. Members. It has changed almost weekly as the negotiations have progressed. However, our architects now have the final full text in English. They got it this morning, as soon as we got it. What will happen week by week in the future is another matter.
There is one final point as a matter of information. I was asked by the hon. ember for Harrow, East, in effect, when I would expect us to be representing whatever views we finally come to in the final negotiations at Brussels. That will not be for me; it will be for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at ministerial meeting level. That is expected to take place on 19th December, but prior to then there will be further negotiations, 678 as I have indicated, both through the usual channels and at EEC ambassadorial level. At this stage we shall have to wait to see how things develop on 19th December. We shall certainly bear in mind all the points that have been put to us.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of EEC Document COM(67)155, on the Mutual Recognition of Architectural Qualifications, and the Secretary of State for the Environment's Supplementary Memorandum together with Annex A to that document dated 4th April 1977 and Supplementary Memorandum dated 28th November 1977.