HL Deb 27 November 1928 vol 72 cc316-23

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the title of the Bill that I commend very respectfully to the House indicates its object—namely, to set up and to maintain, a register of architects with the object of improving the status, the standing and the quality of architecture in this country. I shall submit to your Lordships that a carefully organised measure of registration will be beneficial both to the profession of architecture and to the public as a whole. The demand for something of this kind has been steadily increasing for forty years, perhaps indeed for longer, and this increased desire for a measure of registration has been accompanied by a very remarkable growth in the standard of architectural education.

I do not say that architecture has been alone in improving the standard of its educational system, but we think that registration will add prestige to good education, and it is generally felt, I think, that registration as it exists elsewhere has been serviceable both to the professions concerned and to the public. We have plenty of analogies in other learned professions—nothing, I admit, exactly comparable with the profession of architecture, but analogies from which broad lessons can be drawn. Among solicitors, in medicine, in nursing, in dentistry, in the teaching profession, and in the clerical world is to be found a measure, varying in degree, of registration. On this point I think I may say with confidence that the unity of architectural opinion is complete. The support of allied societies for this measure is unbroken, and in submitting this Bill to your Lordships I can say with confidence that it has the support of the architectural profession as a whole.

Why is this registration suggested? Broadly, as I said just now, to raise the status of the profession. Everybody, I am afraid, must acknowledge, if they travel about the country or about our great towns, that there is an alarming degree of really bad and ugly building going on. We think that this is caused by defective education and that these buildings, which are discreditable, not only to the profession of architecture, but to the taste of this country as a whole, are not brought, about by qualified men but are the result of building and architecture being carried on by those who have not had a sufficient education for the purpose. Nowadays the construction of buildings, quite apart from the architectural or artistic side of the building, with the increasing magnitude of structures is becoming more and more important, and with the growing stature of our buildings the need for a well-defined system of architectural education and registration has, in my opinion, increased.

I hope your Lordships will not think for a minute that I am asking you to accept this Bill on the ground that it is going to produce great architects. It is going to do nothing of the kind. Or that it is going to bring about an efflorescence of architectural genius. It is not. But I am confident that in no sense or degree can it hinder architectural genius, and at the same time it will raise the general standard of architectural efficiency in the course of time. It will not do so at once, but in the course of time that is going to be its result. It will at least give this, a recognised and a standardised minimum of training. That is what every doctor possesses, and we know when we go to a registered medical practitioner, that he at least has passed a sufficient examination to be entered as a duly qualified medical man. The status of the profession will be improved and the protection of the public will be enhanced in so far as the standard of architecture will be improved. Of course, registration of architects exists everywhere else in the world—in France, Italy and Spain, and in Germany where I believe it is compulsory; in the United States, where the growth of a modern system and style of architecture is more notable than anywhere else in the world, 23 States have registration; and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere the same statement, also applies.

I am not going to weary your Lordships by going through the Bill in any detail, but I would like to say, first, that as presented to your Lordships, subject to one verbal amendment, it is the outcome of prolonged consideration by a Select Committee in the House of Commons last year. That Committee sat for fourteen days and this Bill is the result of long and very strenuous efforts on the part of that Committee. I do not, however, present it to your Lordships as a final thing. I am actually in communication with one or two learned societies who want certain further amendments. All I can say is that both the Royal Institute of British Architects and I, as spokesman in this House, will give the most sympathetic and friendly attention to any suggestion made in that manner. Secondly, the Bill is a voluntary Bill in the sense that no one is obliged to be registered under it either now or hereafter. It is not compulsory. Then Clause 5 gives ample protection to existing practitioners in architecture. Any one with a bona fide practice as an architect, or who has worked for five years as an architectural assistant, for instance, is entitled on the passage of this Bill to become a registered architect.

Thirdly, I will say this about the criticism that I have noticed in one or two quarters: The Bill does not in any way create a close profession. Access to the profession of architecture remains open from every source. For instance, in the recent probationers' examination of the Institute no fewer than 50 per cent. of the candidates were educated in elementary schools. The Bill does not create a close corporation in any sense of that term. Finally the Bill does not lay down a stereotyped system of education. That, to my mind, is one of its most valuable features. There is no standardised examination. Students of no fewer than seventeen different schools of architecture receive the right, on gaining their diploma or degree, to access to registration without further examination. This disparity of educational method is of vital importance to this country, not merely in architecture but in all the highest branches of learning and in other faculties in which our modern Universities are taking so active a part. A young fellow going to take up this profession settles with earnestness in his own mind which of the several living schools he shall attend, and when he has gone through his five years course you may be satisfied that he will have an education which fully justifies registration, and prima facie will do work of credit to the country. It is a five years course on the average, and the growing interest in architecture is in my opinion one of the tremendous arguments for giving to that education the prestige which will reach it from registration.

Clause 2 sets up the Council; Clause 3 sets up the Register; Clause 5 provides the Admission Committee; Clause 6 establishes a Board of Architectural Education; and Clause 7 establishes a Discipline Committee. Then there are two Schedules, one setting out the personnel or constitution of the Board of Architectural Education and the other of the Admission Committee. I hope I have convinced your Lordships that the Bill has been drawn on very liberal lines, with scrupulous regard for existing interests as well as for the rights of the public. I cannot claim that the benefits to be obtained from the Bill are going to be immediate. Some time will elapse before the increased training has made its full impact upon architecture, but it will be a definite step in the right direction. It is a matter which does concern the public interest very deeply indeed, and anything which improves the qualification and training of the architect must add to the dignity and distinction of architecture as a whole, and as such can be commended to your favourable consideration. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Crawford.)


My Lords, I should like to support the noble Earl's Motion. I agree with him that the Bill should be voluntary, at this stage at any rate, and also that there should be—as I think there have been in all Bills of this kind—protection for existing interests. There were only two further points that he dealt with, and I think I am entirely agreed with him. He said that it was better to have, at any rate at this stage, a non-standardised form of education, which would give greater liberty, and greater possibility for the achievement of the end which we all desire—namely, that the architecture of this country may be improved and beautified. We agree with the noble Earl that this Bill will not produce a Sir Christopher Wren next day or anything of that kind, but it does give a better status and it gives a disciplinary power which I think is good for an association of this kind. At any rate, we on this Bench will support the noble Earl if there is a Division on the Second Reading, but I expect that the Bill will have the support of all members of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I am very gratified that this Bill has been brought before your Lordships' House. The noble Earl said that this question has been urged and debated for forty years at least. I remember it much longer than that because my own father was vice-president of the Institute in Ireland and if I had been allowed to go my own way I should have been an architect also, for I was in his office. Even when I was there the question was constantly mooted that something ought to be done to try and regularise the status of the profession and, if possible, to prevent—though this Bill no doubt does not compulsorily do it—people being represented to be qualified architects who were not qualified architects at all and whose work often resulted in very grave defects in the erection of buildings, particularly the poorer class of buildings which were being erected at that time. But it is not really to state my own opinion that I have risen. As this Bill applies to Northern Ireland I have been asked by the Ulster Society of Architects, who, I understand, are affiliated with the Royal Institute of British Architects, to say that they are greatly interested in the passing of the Bill, and they have asked me to be here to give it my support.


My Lords, this question came before the Parliamentary Committee of the County Councils Association, of which I happen to be the Chairman. We have carefully considered the Bill and given it our general approval, subject to Clauses 11 and 19 being unaltered, as they affect the local authorities. I only enter that caveat; otherwise we give the Bill our general support.


My Lords, this Bill has obviously many and great merits. I only rise to call attention to one clause, which I think will require very careful consideration in Committee. My noble and learned friend Lord Carson said very truly that really qualified architects are exceedingly necessary at the present moment, especially for the poorer classes of building, and qualified architects will be able to insist that in that class of building strict attention shall be paid to sanitary regulations. That is specially important when so much building is going on in this country. Something like 800,000 houses have been built in the last three and a-half years, and it therefore appears urgently necessary that qualified architects should be employed in their erection.

The clause to which I wish to draw attention is that which deals with the constitution and powers of the Board of Architectural Education, which in the Act is called "the Board." That Board will have very important powers. It will be able to recommend to the Council what examinations should be passed as the qualification for registration under the Act, and, if the Council accept that recommendation, they are bound under the Bill to provide for the holding under the Board of such examinations at least once a year, and in such buildings and at such time as the Board may prescribe. In other words, the power of saying what examinations are necessary and of conducting those examinations is left to the Board. That in itself seems reasonable, but when I look at the constitution of the Board, as laid down in the First Schedule, it does not seem to me to be a body very well calculated either to deal with the class of examination or to conduct the examination, because I find that there will be more than fifty members of that Board. I can hardly think that a Board so constituted would be very suitable for the purpose. I suggest to the noble Earl that between now and the Committee stage he should consider whether that is the best form of Board, and, if you must have so many people upon it, whether there should be provision for the Board to delegate their powers to small committees, who would be better able to carry out the onerous duties imposed upon them.


My Lords, I do not know whether it is necessary in setting up a Committee by Act of Parliament to confer upon that Committee the right to appoint sub-committees. I should have thought that there were certain inherent rights in the Committee to delegate some of its work to members of its own body, provided that that Committee has power to review and to authorise the actions of its subordinate committees. I will make inquiries of my friends who are learned in the construction of the law, and, if I am incorrect, I will ask for power to confer on the Board the right to act through committees.

On Question, Bill read 2ª.


My Lords, in regard to this Bill—


Order! Order!


My Lords, I think there is some misunderstanding. I do not think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack noticed that my noble friend rose to address the House to express the opinion of the Government on this Bill, and I am also not quite sure whether the noble and learned Lord had collected the voices; but at any rate it is not usual in your Lordships' House to press a point of that kind very far.


I did not know that the noble Lord, Lord Deshorough, was going to speak on this Bill. I really thought that we had passed from it to the next measure, and that he was going to move the Second Reading of the next Bill.


My Lords, with the permission of the House perhaps I might explain in a few words the position of the Government with regard to this Bill. The Government would leave the question of the Second Reading entirely to the discretion of the House. They fully admit and admire the exertions of my noble friend behind me in bringing this Bill forward. At the same time they would like to point out that the state of public business at present is such that it a Private Member's Bill is likely to be opposed, or notice is given of opposition, it is extremely improbable that it will be passed in another place. But the Government would like to have the matter discussed.

The history of this question may be stated in a very few words. A Bill with very much the same object as the present Bill was introduced in 1927 and was referred to a Select Committee. It did not receive any very unanimous support and the Select Committee declined to report it to the House. It is true that there was not an absolute majority on the Committee, and that later the Select Committee did express the hope that the Bill, with the Amendments which they advised should be introduced into it, should be brought into the House at a future stage. On March 22 of last year a Bill was introduced into another place but after a debate lasting two hours the House was counted, out. It does not strike the Government, therefore, that there is any very exuberant enthusiasm in another place for the provisions of the Bill. The Privy Council is mentioned in the course of the Bill, and I understand that the Privy Council will be willing to undertake the duties which are imposed, or are suggested to be imposed, on it by the Bill, subject to the redrafting of Clause 15. With regard to Northern Ireland, the Home Office have been in communication with Northern Ireland, and the representatives of Northern Ireland are in favour of this Bill, which would apply to them, and are willing to discuss it subject to an Amendment in Clause 21. That is the position of the Government and, as I say, it leaves the matter entirely in the hands of your Lordships' House.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.