HL Deb 01 April 1996 vol 571 cc37-69

4.53 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 112 agreed to.

Clause 113 [Reckoning periods of time]:

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 198: Page 64, line 6, at end insert ("together with all days forming part of a customary holiday period within the industry in question").

The noble Lord said: We can move from the general and important to the particular and no less important. We have almost reached the end of Part II of the Bill which deals with the construction industry, a part with which I felt, from time to time, that the Government were not entirely comfortable, though many others found the whole thing plain sailing. Amendment No. 198 is a simple amendment and I hope that the Government accept it without any undue alarm or despondency. It is a detailed contractual matter relating to periods of time and calculation.

As the Bill stands, it allows for the period of time to exclude such days as Christmas Day, Good Friday or Bank Holidays in England and Wales and, indeed, Scotland. The amendment seeks to extend that exclusion to include what are the natural and usual customary holidays in the area where the contract is carried out. By that I mean such things as Wakes Week in the north of England, the Glasgow Fair in the west of Scotland or similar traditional holidays. I have nothing further to say on the matter except that I expect the Government to agree with what I say and I hope that in his reply the noble Earl will make that clear. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My noble friend Lord Howie has a point. It is difficult in timetabling simply to concentrate on what is statutory time rather than what is conventional time within the industry with which we are dealing. Though I accept that it may be difficult to include my noble friend's amendment in the Bill immediately, I hope that the Government will accept that there are arrangements within the industry which are generally acknowledged and which would make the timetable specified in the Bill difficult for them to meet on certain occasions.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Howie, says that this is a simple amendment and he is sure that the Government will be able to accept it. But the noble Lord, Lord Williams, sees a difficulty. In fact, so do I.

I have a lot of sympathy with the suggestion that customary holidays should be discounted from the time periods mentioned in the Bill. But I wonder how practical that would be. It may vary from place to place or even from site to site. The last thing we want to create is a source of dispute about the precise timing of deadlines.

It may be that some builders take two weeks off over Christmas or during the summer so that everyone can go on holiday at the same time. It would be difficult and, indeed, unfair to take that into account in that the payee may have to wait an extra two weeks for his money. Many of the time periods mentioned in the Bill concern payment or the transmission of information. I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Howie, that, so long as the banks are operating and postal services are working, there is little justification in discounting certain special days. It would not be fair that a small businessman had to wait for his money because his employer had gone on holiday.

As it is written in the Bill, obvious days such as Bank Holidays, Good Friday, Christmas Day and Easter Day are all taken account of. It would be inappropriate to widen that scope.

Lord Howie of Troon

I have known the noble Earl for the best part of 30 years and I notice that he has an unerring aim for difficulties which nobody else can see. Of course, that is part of his job.

As I read the Bill—I may be mistaken and no doubt the noble Earl will correct me in due course—"reckoning periods of time" relates to a variety of things. There are periods of time for payment to any contract involving extensions of time and things of that nature. But there are traditions with which the noble Earl may not be wholly aware.

I can remember when my father worked in Troon Shipyard. They had a local custom which was continual and traditional. They had two days off at new year—the 1st and 2nd January—and then on 3rd January the workers congregated near the shipyard and threw a brick into the air. If the brick stayed up, they went into work; if it came down again, they had a third day off. This was a traditional holiday and I have no doubt that others have similar traditions. More seriously, there are certain traditional holidays. I mentioned Wakes weeks and the Glasgow fair, both of which last two weeks or so and have great significance, especially in relation to extensions of time.

If the noble Earl can convince me that this part of the Bill relates entirely to time in relation to payments, I may well be satisfied that he is right. But if, on the other hand, he does not do that and leaves hanging in the air, as it were, such matters as extensions of time—I shall try to keep talking until the noble Earl's colleague returns from his advisers—which are rather more important because they have knock-on effects in terms of such operations as follow after the extensions of time, I shall not be satisfied. An extension of time, which extends the whole contract period and impinges upon the operations of sub-contractors, other contractors and ancillary contractors, is totally different from something which is merely a matter of accountancy. I think I can probably stop now because I see that the noble Earl's colleague has returned. I should like a reply from the noble Earl.

5 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord, Lord Howie, said that he has known me for 30 years. He has indeed; he is a very lucky chap. He said that I have an erring aim for difficulties.

Lord Howie of Troon

An unerring aim.

Earl Ferrers

That is even worse. The curious thing is that, as far as I can see, the encroaches of senility make me seem to find everything simple. I would not want to pick an argument with anyone—least of all the noble Lord, Lord Howie. The noble Lord gave as a reason for his argument the fact that up in Scotland when they want a day off they throw a brick into the air and if it comes down they take it. That is a curious analogy to use in support of one's argument, because I do not suppose many of the bricks stay up in the air, unless it happens in Scotland where they do have very curious habits.

The time limits in the Bill refer to payment. They also refer to other things as well. I really do not think it possible to take these other curious, if I may so describe them, occasions, which are not national occasions or statutory occasions, and build them into the Bill because they will have different effects in different parts of the country. It seems unreasonable to tell people who are expecting money, and may be expecting some money on, say, 15th August, that everyone has gone on holiday for two weeks and they have to wait for two weeks for their money. After all, this is a case of making payments when payments are known to be expected and payments are due. I should have thought that it is perfectly reasonable to say in those circumstances that only the statutory holidays should be taken into account.

I hope that I have been able to persuade the noble Lord because, very curiously, he said that he was open to persuasion. That is an unusual facet of the noble Lord's character. I hope that I have managed to persuade him that it is better to leave the provision as it is.

Lord Howie of Troon

I find the noble Earl's argument persuasive but only up to a point. If I heard him correctly, he said that these time matters refer to payments and other things as well. But it was the "other things as well" that I was bothered about. I said that in so far as it was a matter of payment I accepted his proposition—and I do—but matters such as extensions of time on a contract with the consequential knock-on effects are totally different. I am not sure that he has convinced me. He has half persuaded me, as I thought he would, but he has not persuaded me wholly, because he did not apply himself to what I actually said. I think the correct thing for the noble Earl to say is that he will look at what I have said and ask me to withdraw my amendment. If he says that, I shall happily comply.

Earl Ferrers

It is a remarkable thing when the noble Lord says to me that if he were me I would say what the noble Lord thought I should say. But, as I am myself, and as I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Howie, I shall do what the noble Lord says. I shall ask him to withdraw the amendment. I shall certainly have a look at what he has said and if I have either misdirected myself or, even worse, misdirected the noble Lord, I shall certainly get in touch with him. I shall certainly look at what he has said to see whether there is anything we can do to meet that point.

Lord Howie of Troon

Since we seem to have changed our places in some curious way I am happy to comply with what the noble Earl suggests. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 113 agreed to.

Clause 114 [The Board and its committees]:

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 199: Page 64, line 23, after ("committees") insert ("(which must have a majority of Board members)").

The noble Lord said: In the course of our debate in Committee on Clause 111 stand part both the noble Lord, Lord Elvel, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked about representations over the weekend. Not to be outdone, the noble Earl talked in the same spirit.

Earl Ferrers

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. He referred to the noble Lord, Lord Elvel. I think he actually meant the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. It is only a small point.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I am most grateful. I was being economical with my language in order to shorten the remarks which I propose to make. I am grateful for the correction. I have made that mistake before and I apologise to the Committee and to the noble Lord, Lord Williams.

The noble Lords, Lord Williams and Lord Berkeley, talked about representations over the weekend. All I would say is that I have had many representations on behalf of 30,000 registered architects who hoped very much that Part III of the Bill, which is so important to them, would be considered last Thursday but for reasons we all know, though sunshine turned to twilight and twilight eventually turned to darkness, the House rose for unusual reasons before that part of the Bill could be reached.

It is a most important part of the Bill and it is for that reason very significant legislation for the profession. For more than 60 years it has depended very largely for its status and therefore its livelihood on the 1931 legislation. Part III of the Bill effectively amends, but in a very important and significant way, the legislation of more than 60 years ago and some subsequent amending legislation. However, there is a significant difference between the 1931 Act and Part III of the Bill which reflects our changing times. The 1931 Act was certainly seen as protecting the profession from imposters—those who claimed to be architects when they were not—and from others and, despite the support, as I shall explain, that has been given by the great majority of architects to Part III of the Bill, the Bill and Part III ought to be considered primarily as protecting the public. For that reason it is important for the Committee to look at the detail of the proposals in that spirit.

Equally, if it is a sea change of the kind which I suggest—indeed it is as regards the further amendments to which we shall come—it is not surprising that architects have been caused some anxiety, not necessarily by what the Bill says but by details which, for one reason or another, have been omitted. My amendments are all probing amendments. At present I do not intend to press them to a Division at this stage of the Bill. The amendments are all intended to enable Ministers to place beyond all reasonable doubt what the new registration body will be like and how it will be expected to function. If, as I anticipate, helpful replies are given today of a robust and emollient kind—those two things can go together—I shall certainly not expect to press the matters further at a different stage of the Bill.

I shall be on my feet on a number of occasions in the next hour so I shall say what I said at Second Reading. I was the director-general of the RIBA from 1987 to 1994, and a consultant for a short period afterwards. I am an honorary Fellow now. I was very much involved in the discussion of the contents of the Bill, in the first place with Sir George Young when he was a Minister, and also with the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, and officials. All the amendments that I am putting before the Committee today have the support of the Royal Institute of British Architects though it would not necessarily agree with the way in which I shall address them.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord has referred on a number of occasions to all the amendments. I take it that the noble Lord is speaking to a number of them at the moment. Can he tell us what the others are?

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

The noble Lord anticipates by about 10 seconds what I intended to say. I thought it was important to make my position clear so that there would be no misunderstanding. The amendments stand in my name and nobody, in accordance with the proper procedures of this House, can be committed to them. Now that the Committee is preliminarily apprised of the amendments to which I shall later be speaking, I am now speaking, as the Marshalled List suggests, to Amendments Nos. 199 and 200, which go together. Amendments Nos. 212 and 213 are essentially belt and braces amendments. I do not intend to make any particular reference to them.

My remarks will now be quite short in addressing Amendments Nos. 199 and 200 together. They make clear my anxiety and the area as regards which I hope the Minister will be able to help. As the Minister and the Committee may know, the Government originally had in mind to end altogether the registration of architects, but then they had a very wise change of mind. At that stage there were alternatives about how the problem of future registration might be dealt with. One possibility was that responsibility for maintaining a register of architects should be passed to the RIBA itself. Indeed, in John Warne's report to Ministers, he recommended the ending of registration. He said that were registration to continue, he thought that the best option was to pass responsibility for maintaining the register to the professional body. That was one option and most favoured by John Warne and at that time by the RIBA itself.

The second option, which was developed both among the professional bodies and in ARCUK itself, the existing registration body, which embraces registered architects who are not members of a professional body like the RIBA or its equivalent in Scotland or Northern Ireland, was called a "minimalist organisation". I am very glad to say that that being the alternative which was most widely favoured in the end, both by the architects themselves and by Her Majesty's Government, the Bill embodies in its detail the essentials of such a minimalist organisation.

For example, there is a board of 15 people instead of a council of 77. It is a board shorn of the unnecessary committees which have created some problems in the past, particularly the Board of Architectural Education. I hope that the new organisation, being minimalist, is the cheapest to run although I make it clear to the Members of the Committee, if they are in doubt, that the present organisation for registration and its successor set out in the Bill, will be paid for by the profession itself. No cost falls on the public purse.

As I say, the direction of the Bill, as printed, is towards a minimalist organisation. I move principally these two amendments, and the others which follow from it, to make clear to the Committee that my understanding of the organisation is its understanding, too. It believes in a minimalist organisation, which will not attempt in any way to grow beyond the bounds set in statute in order to avoid any unnecessary conflict with the professional bodies which will very properly continue to represent those architects who join. The organisation will be kept as economical as possible in order, quite reasonably, to conserve the resources of a profession which, among all professions, is not a very well rewarded one. I hope that the Minister will be able to give those assurances. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas

Do I understand correctly that the noble Lord is not speaking to Amendments Nos. 212 and 213 at this stage?

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

That is correct.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

Perhaps I may first apologise to the House for not being here on earlier occasions. My work takes up a lot of time in the afternoons and evenings. Although I would have wished to take part in the debates on the Bill, so far, I have been unable to do so. I have come to the House particularly for Part III of the Bill. I declare to the Committee my interests. I am a chartered surveyor. I started life as a land agent. I then became a commercial agent and then a developer. I have now set up a business as an estate agent. During those times I have used the services of architects and I wish that I had not had to bother with them.

This is the most bizarre part of the Bill. How this Government, which I support, can have changed their mind after receiving an independent report from Mr. John Warne that we should get rid of this dreadful legislation, beggars belief. I cannot follow my noble friends' thought processes. However, we have this dreadful Part III of the Bill. The amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, only serve to make it even worse.

However, I support the noble Lord on Amendment No. 200, which is reducing and minimising the cost of the board to the profession. The best way of doing that is to scrap the board and to take away the rather unique position in which architects find themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, said that the reason why architects wanted this board so much was that it protected their profession. He went on to say that it protects the public. What a load of rubbish! The public certainly do not need protection from architects. They need the greatest ability there is to seek competitive positions in this profession and from other people who can provide just the same services as architects, but much more efficiently, effectively and at a cheaper price.

I wonder who needs protecting from a profession that can produce a calendar for this year of 12 pretty pictures showing the designs of buildings. Five of those buildings have never been built and they are never going to be built. The great majority of the rest have been modified extensively from the original concept. Many of my own designs have had to be rescued from the hands of architects by quantity surveyors and others in the profession. There are too many buildings in this country, too many ideas and too much money has been lost as a result of bad workmanship by architects that others have luckily been able to rescue or, in many cases, not. I cannot support the thrust of Part III of the Bill. I shall argue most strongly against the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers.

Lord Monkswell

I was going to say that I have been driven to speak by the last speaker, but I had intended to contribute anyway, so perhaps I should say—this may come as a surprise—that I am driven with alacrity to defend architects. Perhaps I should say first that I am a member of MSF, the Manufacturing, Science and Finance trades union, which currently has some difficulties with the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, I have used the services of architects and I have friends in the architectural profession. Furthermore, because of my involvement directly and indirectly with the civil engineering and building industry over a period of 30 years, I can testify to the professional competence of architects. The professional way in which they go about their business extends not only to their professional competence in a technical sense but also, generally speaking and in my experience, to the way in which they treat other professionals as well as people involved in their own business.

I shall concentrate my remarks on Amendment No. 200, which is grouped with Amendment No. 199. Part of my reason for speaking is that I fear that the concentration on the minimisation of costs and administrative burdens addresses only one side of the equation. We have had 17 years of this Government, whose constant cry is that they are keen on reducing taxation. We need to recognise, however, that all that they have done is to reduce the taxation levels of the very rich; the taxation burdens for the rest of us have increased. That is the first point. By concentrating on arguments about reducing taxation, the Government have lost track of the other side of the equation, which is the fact that we must be aware of the need for the provision of adequate and decent levels of service. By concentrating on just one side of the equation, the Government have effectively lost their way in terms of being a government of the country. Judging from the opinion polls, my view is shared by the vast majority of the British people.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, will not take it amiss if I say that if he were to press Amendment No. 200, he would in effect be going down the same kind of road as the Government, because by concentrating on one side of the equation, if I may put it like that, there is a risk of losing sight of the other side of the equation. I hope that the noble Lord will think again about Amendment No. 200 and take on board the need to look at both sides of the equation.

Lord Elton

I, too, am tempted to my feet by the intervention of my noble friend Lord Caithness. I had expected to say that it was a great pity that my noble friend had not been here for our earlier consideration of the Bill, but having heard his speech I am not quite sure whether that is what I want to say.

I am puzzled by what my noble friend said. The burden of his message was that architects are to be mistrusted and done down at every possible turn because he has had such a bad experience with them and so, he says, has everybody else. How strange, therefore, that he should object to the constitution of a body which determines who may be allowed to practise as architects, when the majority of that body is appointed to protect the public interest while only a minority is elected by the profession. I should have thought that my noble friend would argue for exactly that. I hope that he will repent of his intervention.

Lord Ezra

I, too, was a little puzzled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. I have come over the years to respect his views on things. However, not being a member of any of the professions about which we are speaking and not belonging to any of their organisations, but speaking as somebody who may potentially employ the services of an architect, I would take it amiss if there were not a register of those eminent people so that I could be assured that the architect I selected had the normal, required professional qualifications. I strongly support the amendments proposed by my noble friend Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. A simple register, administered with minimum cost, is what we require. I very much hope that my noble friend's amendments to that effect will be accepted.

Lord Lucas

I am delighted that at last we have had the opportunity to hear the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, whom I had hoped to see on Thursday. He is here now, however, and in prime time and I am sure that achieving that was the real intention behind the Division on Clause 111 stand part which the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, called. I can find no other reason for that action.

I am rather taken by the thought that 30,000 architects are all standing up, crying out for the Bill. One wonders what would happen if one were to pile them all on top of each other. One asks oneself whether they would stand up. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Caithness would have some opinions on that point.

We support this part of the Bill and the efforts made to bring the provisions to fruition by the companions in arms in architecture of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. Despite what my noble friend Lord Caithness said, we believe that they will prove to be a worthwhile change to the legislation.

On the amendments, I find myself in the same camp as the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The noble Lord began by taxing my imagination and I wondered whether we were talking about the same Bill. Eventually, however, we returned to the Bill and the noble Lord supported the attitude that I shall take to Amendment No. 200. All's well that Monkswell, I suppose.

The aim of the amendments is to ensure that the new Architects Registration Board does not spawn several new large and expensive committees. We are certainly sympathetic to that aim. We have established a new professional conduct committee but, having abolished the Board of Architectural Education and the admission committee, the last thing we would wish to see is large new committees rising from the ashes, as it were, to take their place. I accept that such committees may be bureaucratic and expensive to run, and one of our aims in reducing the size of the Architects' Registration Council of the UK was to reduce registration costs.

We agree with the minimalist approach implied by the amendments. Our proposals would reduce the board to only 15 members and we would not wish the board to be supplemented by vast committees. However, I do not think that the proposed amendments are the right way to deal with this possibility.

While I might agree with the sentiments contained in Amendment No. 200, I do not think legislation is the right way forward. After all, any professional body is bound to act reasonably with regard to the interests of that profession, and this would include avoiding unnecessary costs.

There must be a certain amount of trust and a new organisation should be free to run its own affairs without having its hands tied unduly by legislation. If, at some time in the future, the board were to act in a way contrary to the spirit of this legislation, there is the possibility of changing the composition of the board both through elections and through the appointed members.

The proposals in Amendment No. 199 to insist on a majority of board members on all committees established by the board unnecessarily ties the hands of the board, which ought, in establishing its small, effective but inexpensive committees, to be granted the freedom to choose who should serve on them.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I, too, very much regret the fact that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, was not able to be present on Second Reading because I thought that the points that he made were very much Second Reading points. Although I recognise their weight, I found his remarks today a little intemperate and prejudiced. If the noble Earl does not mind me saying so, the answer to his claim that the Bill is a "load of rubbish"—those were his words—although it is argued that it is designed to protect the public, was extremely well given by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who pointed to the membership of the board, a matter to which we shall return when we reach Amendment No. 211.

At the time of the passage of the original legislation, the professions had much greater status and were taken for granted by the public. However, their status has changed greatly during the past 60 or more years. Although I do not necessarily agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said about the composition of the board, the fact that by election it can be changed by that part of it which is subject to nomination is safeguard enough. I say to the noble Viscount that I would not resist an argument, if it were put forward by the profession of chartered surveyors, that it should have registration. I say cautiously that I think it is mean of him as a chartered surveyor to try to interfere with the entitlements of architects when I am sure that the great majority of that profession would not wish, in a similar way, to interfere with the wishes of the profession of surveyors, if it decided to pursue this course.

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lords Monkswell and Elton, and to my noble friend Lord Ezra for the support they have given to the spirit of my amendment. I am not entirely happy with what the Minister said in referring to the composition of the board, which could not be quickly changed, as sufficient guarantee against the possibility that this would not be minimalist but would grow by the establishment of new committees. He said specifically that the last thing the Government would wish to see would be large new committees arising. I believe that this provides some guarantee that, should there be any danger of it, the Government will endeavour to find ways to reverse that trend, which would not be in keeping with the contents of the Bill or the intentions behind it.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord was kind enough to thank me for the support for his amendment. In case he intends to do it again at a later stage, I point out that I was not saying anything about his amendment but supporting this part of the Bill against the misguided attack of my noble friend Lord Caithness. I reserve the right to attack anything that the noble Lord brings forward at the next stage with just as much ferocity as that, if the need arises.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I hope I was not presumptuous. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for pointing out to the noble Viscount, Lord Caithness, the proportions of the Bill.

Lord Monkswell

I, too, point out that I was not being supportive of the noble Lord's amendment but merely complimentary to the profession as a whole.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I am amazed by how many noble Lords are disowning, not their earlier remarks, but my response to them. I acknowledge that the Official Report should be read. That is the only way to discover precisely what noble Lords have said. For the moment, I am grateful to them for what they have said about the amendment and the spirit of Part III of the Bill. For that reason, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 200 not moved.]

Clause 114 agreed to.

Clause 115 agreed to.

Clause 116 [Registration]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 200A: Page 65, line 21, at end insert ("or who has infringed the rights of other registered persons in respect of belonging to a trade union.").

The noble Lord said: Part III of the Bill gives important status to the RIBA. It introduces a legal framework of proper procedures to deal with alleged misconduct and incompetence against architects. I understand that the RIBA fully supports this part of the Bill. Therefore, it is extraordinary that the RIBA has ceased to recognise the trade union that represents the vast majority of its staff; that is, the MSF Union. It has reached this decision despite the fact that 85 per cent. of RIBA employees are members of the union and 92 per cent. of all staff voted for the re-establishment of trade union rights in an independently scrutinised ballot.

I am well aware that the Government are probably not enthusiastic about trade unions. However, we are talking about the rights of individual staff members, the overwhelming majority of whom wish to be members of that trade union and wish it to be recognised by the employer. I fail to see how the RIBA can adopt the attitude that it has. The amendment is intended to give support to the views of the staff who wish their union to be recognised. I very much hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the spirit of the amendment. It seems to me to be extraordinary that in this day and age, when the overwhelming majority of the staff of a particular organisation wish to have their union recognised, the employer has no interest and moves the other way. I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the thrust of this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell

It grieves me that I rise to support the amendment. I have a great deal of respect for the architectural profession as a whole and many individual members of it whom I know. I respect also the way in which they operate, not just in the sense of professional and technical competence but in the way they treat others, whether they be clients, staff or other professionals. I believe it to be a blot on the escutcheon of the architectural profession that the dispute between the leadership and employees of the Royal Institute of British Architects has arisen. I hope that in supporting the amendment the Government will send out a very clear message to the profession that, while this part of the Bill is about the professional competence of the profession, there is also an expectation on the part of society that professional people should behave in a responsible manner to others with whom they come in contact, particularly those they employ.

I suspect that the action of the leadership of the RIBA has been disturbing to a large number of practising architects. They feel that their profession is brought into disrepute by this action. It is to be hoped, even at this late stage, action can be taken, in the form of an amendment, to make amends for this blot on the escutcheon of the architectural profession, all members of which are listening to this debate, according to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank.

Lord Lucas

This amendment has nothing to do with the Bill. The Bill is not about the RIBA but about an entirely different body: the Architects' Registration Council. The Bill affects registered architects, not unregistered employees of the RIBA. The right to belong to a trade union and protection against infringement of that right is properly dealt with across all industries and professions by employment legislation. This Bill contains provisions that deal with allegations of unacceptable professional conduct. If it were alleged that the type of infringement under discussion constituted unacceptable professional conduct, it should be dealt with in a proper manner as set out in the Bill. But this Bill does not even require architects to be very good architects; it certainly does not require them to be very good employers or people. That is entirely outside the scope of the Bill.

It would be wrong and contrary to the principles of natural justice for a person against whom an allegation had been made simply to be thrown out by the registrar without his case being heard and dealt with in a proper way. The registrar would be entirely the wrong person to hear a case of this kind. I very much hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment without further ado.

Lord Monkswell

Perhaps I may point out to the Minister that the amendment is entirely within the context of the thrust of this part of the Bill, because it talks about registered architects. The amendment is drawn fairly narrowly in that it applies only to registered architects who are denied their trade union rights. With that explanation, the Minister might like to reconsider his remarks, because, as I said, the problems are faced by registered architects, and that is what this part of the Bill is about.

The amendment does not refer to other members of the RIBA's staff who are not registered architects. If the RIBA were to be required to confer what everyone, I think, would consider to be the right of trade union membership and representation to registered members who are members of staff, those same rights would be read across to other members of staff who were not necessarily registered architects.

Lord Lucas

Neither does the Bill deal with registered architects who have difficulty obtaining their child benefit. Registered architects, along with everyone else, have the rights granted by employment legislation. That is the right place for those rights. They have no place in the Bill.

Lord Dubs

Of course, in a narrow technical sense the Minister is right, but I draw a great deal of comfort from two phrases that he used. He used the phrases, "very good employers" and "very good people". I think by that he meant that he welcomes employers who are good employers and behave decently to their employees. There was indication of a slight rap over the knuckles of people who are not good employers. I welcome that rap over the knuckles. In that spirit, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 201: Page 66, line 12, at end insert ("and shall consult the chartered bodies of architects in the United Kingdom and shall have special regard to the advice received from such bodies.").

The noble Lord said: In commenting upon Amendment No. 200A, the Minister rightly said that the Bill is not about the RIBA. It is important to emphasise that we are looking at chartered bodies—bodies of chartered architects—who represent about 70 per cent. of the profession, which are properly concerned with the interests of the profession. That is a wide responsibility, although I see it also as a public duty. The new registration body, despite what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said earlier, has been designed to, and, I hope, will function in the public interest, as the Bill sets out.

What we need for the success of the registration body and for the prosperity of the profession is co-operation between the professional bodies and the registration body to ensure that both, in their way, contribute to the public interest and to a flourishing, successful, and well-focused profession.

The amendment has a simple purpose. It is to ensure that the professional bodies are properly consulted about the development of architectural education and entry into the profession. Perhaps I may refer first to entry into the profession. Again, I readily concede that in 1931 it may have been in the minds—I can say no more than that—of a number of architects that a new registration body would in some way help to restrict or confine entry into the profession. I do not anticipate that that is what they would want today or that it is what the new registration body will do. However, it is important that the only people admitted to the profession are those who have proper and widely understood qualifications and who have been through the proper courses to justify their entitlement to the name "registered architect". I believe that that is a view which will be common to all Members of the Committee and one we must accept.

Secondly—this, I believe, follows—if we are to have entry into the profession by those best qualified to be called registered architects, it is important to pay attention to the development of architectural education. Architectural education has, traditionally and very properly, been the responsibility of the professional bodies. It is the professional bodies for architects in this case, but equally the education of professionals, whether in medicine, law, or engineering, has traditionally been, and remains, the concern of those various professional bodies.

In recent years there has been some rivalry—if I may put it that way—between the existing Board of Architectural Education and the professional bodies. I say that despite some genuine and devoted service by distinguished architects in the board's service. I think, for example, of the present chairman of the board, Professor Ken Murta. The board disappears under this legislation. There is total agreement over that.

What I seek to ensure is a partnership between the new body and the professional organisations over education and entry into the profession, because the ownership of education is, as I say, a proper concern for all professional bodies, and the new organisation would make no claim to that. It could only by stealth or inadvertence find itself involved in questions of education. I hope that the Minister will say that that is his understanding of the matter. Even if he were to suggest that the amendment is unnecessary, I hope that he will make it clear that consultation with the professional bodies will be at the heart of the new registration body both in determining those who are fit and proper persons to join the profession and what education they should have in order to do so. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Finsberg

Perhaps I may raise one point. I appreciate that my noble friend may not be able to answer off the cuff, but I should be happy if he would write to me. I remember on the question of registration and education in the years when I was a junior Minister having to go to Brussels to discuss common qualifications with other members of the Community, in particular the Germans. I wonder whether registration here will automatically mean registration throughout the EU; and, equally, whether we would be prepared to accept EU architects, however they may have been educated, under the proposals.

Lord Lucas

I shall instantly satisfy my noble friend by saying that I shall not give him an answer now and that I shall write to him.

I turn to the amendment. One of the duties of the new board will be to consult such professional bodies as it considers appropriate before adopting any qualifications, practical experience, and examination requirements for registration. I can fully understand the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, to make it absolutely certain that the chartered architectural bodies will be among the consultees. Their advice on the criteria for registration will be of particular importance to the board.

Let me therefore assure the Committee that in carrying out that function the board will have to act reasonably in deciding which bodies to consult and in having regard to any advice received. It would clearly be unreasonable for the board to fail to include chartered architectural bodies in its consultations, or not to consider their representations. For that reason, I see no need for a specific reference to that group of consultees on the face of the Bill. I hope that I have reassured the noble Lord and that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I hesitate to intervene between the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, but the answer to the noble Lord's question is that there are acceptable reciprocal arrangements between the member states of the European Union under the architects' directive. The point is most important and it is one to which the new registration body must give continuing attention.

I am grateful for what the Minister said. In particular, I am comforted by his comment about the board having to act reasonably. To say that the profession should be among the consultees might seem to diminish its relative role. I am sure that was not his intention, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No. 202: Page 66, line 40, leave out ("within three") and insert—

  1. ("(a) where the application is made on the ground that he satisfies subsection (1)(a), within three months of his application being duly made; and
  2. (b) where the application is made on the ground that he satisfies subsection (1)(b), within six").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 202, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 204 to 208 and 214 to 217.

Clause 116 sets out the functions of the registrar of architects and requires him to notify applicants for registration of a decision within three months. That will allow sufficient time for routine applications. However, a small minority of applications, mainly from overseas, require the board to exercise its judgment about the standard of competence attained and may require the applicant to pass an examination. That will need more time. Amendment No. 202 therefore will allow six months instead of three for the registrar to notify applicants in such cases.

Clause 117 requires the professional conduct committee to make a disciplinary order against a person whom it has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or professional incompetence. This order may involve erasure from the register, suspension, a fine or simply a reprimand. Amendment No. 204 would replace this requirement with a discretion and would give the committee freedom not to impose any form of disciplinary order if it considered the matter too trivial to merit any punishment.

Amendment No. 205 is consequential to this change (to Amendment No. 204). Instead of publishing the names of people against whom a disciplinary order has been made, the professional conduct committee would be required to publish a list of those whom it has found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or professional incompetence and give a description of the nature of the conduct or offence concerned.

Amendment No. 214A corrects a minor drafting error. If an appeal against a disciplinary order or against the removal of a person's name from the register is going to be made to the High Court or the Court of Session, the clock will start running from the date the notice of decision is served, instead of the date of the disciplinary action concerned.

Amendment No. 208 corrects a drafting error in Clause 117. As drafted, one of the possible penalties for failure to pay a fine imposed on a person found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or professional incompetence would be a further fine. This was not intended. Instead, the amendment will make the penalty for non payment of a fine, either suspension or erasure from the register.

The other amendments in this group, (Nos. 206, 207, 214, 215, 216, 217) are necessary consequential amendments. I trust that this group of amendments will meet with the Committee's approval. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell

Perhaps I may refer to a comment which the Minister made about Amendment No. 204. He suggested that the amendment would give the professional conduct committee the discretion not to impose a penalty against someone whom it had found guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence. He suggested that the reason for not imposing a penalty was that the transgression might be considered too trivial.

I am not sure that the Minister meant to make that suggestion and perhaps I may suggest another scenario. The misconduct or incompetence may be of a serious nature but the standing of the architect and the fact that he has been found guilty will be enough of a penalty in itself. That will give the professional conduct committee the ability to declare the fact that they have found someone guilty, even though for a significant offence, yet impose no penalty. Does the Minister confirm that that is an acceptable understanding of the amendment?

Lord Lucas

I hesitate to leap onto that possibly shaky ground. I shall consider what the noble Lord said and shall write to him if, after consideration, I in any way disagree with what he said.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 116, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 117 [Discipline]:

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 203: Page 67, line 43, at beginning insert ("serious or repeated").

The noble Lord said: I hesitated in tabling the amendment, which is self explanatory, because I strongly believe in the need to maintain a high level of competence in the profession. Although the profession might not like my comment I must say that it, like every other profession, has its bottom 10 per cent. which it could do without. I have no wish to protect them and it would not be proper to do so given my previous comment that the overriding purpose of the legislation is to protect the public and not the profession.

Nor would I agree that the amendment includes the provision "serious and repeated". I am substituting "or" for "and", which is an important factor. Either the shortcomings should be serious or they should be repeated. It would not be sufficient that the two factors should be taken together. I hope that I have made that clear, although I am not sure that I have.

We all make mistakes in our professional life and elsewhere and there is no point in pursuing a minor or one-off error of the kind that everyone makes from time to time. I am aware that there is always a danger of certain vexatious complaints resulting in a great deal more work than the new board can undertake. I hope that the Minister will see the intention of my proposal and will respond in the spirit of it. I hope that he will strongly support the need for the new board to do all within its power within the terms of the Bill to ensure that the profession serves the public in the best possible way.

Lord Lucas

The noble Lord explained himself very well and I have a clear understanding of the difference between "serious or repeated" and "serious and repeated". An error which is not serious but has been repeated is perhaps the noble Lord's continuing demotion of my noble friend Lord Caithness!

The Government are opposed to Amendment No. 203 on the simple ground that it is unnecessary. There are already two opportunities to decide whether an allegation of professional incompetence is taken further. First, persons appointed by the board, or the professional conduct committee itself, must satisfy themselves that there is a case to answer. Secondly, the professional conduct committee has discretion to satisfy itself whether professional incompetence has taken place. In both cases it will be possible to decide that the matter is sufficiently trivial or isolated not to be regarded as professional incompetence.

The addition of the words "serious or repeated" would do little to clarify matters. After all, their interpretation is a matter of opinion and it would be for the same committee to decide. In any event, I expect that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, will be doubly reassured by the Government's Amendment No. 204, which removes the requirement for the committee to make any disciplinary order if it considers none to be necessary.

I hope that my remarks have convinced the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

6 p.m.

Lord Elton

Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, as I am sure he will, I ask my noble friend to notice that as presently drafted, Clause 117 requires that the case "shall" be investigated where there is an allegation of either of the two kinds of offences mentioned. Therefore, the discretion to which he referred is not apparent on the face of the Bill. If the Bill said that the case "may" be investigated, what my noble friend said would be plain to all who read the legislation. I hope that my noble friend will seek further clarification about that before the next stage because it would be a great pity if this machine, which is intended to be smooth, simple and cheap to run, were required accidentally to investigate every scintilla of doubt in relation to professional propriety. For once, I find myself in modest agreement with the noble Lord opposite.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I pause to see whether the Minister wishes to respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, because the element of discretion is extremely important. I had understood that there was discretion, but I may have misread the Bill. Perhaps the Minister will clarify this matter because it is very important. Indeed, if it is not clarified to my satisfaction, I would certainly consider raising this matter again at a later stage.

I am surprised that the noble Earl—and I beg his pardon—Lord Caithness had not thought of intervening on the amendment, because I should have thought that he might wish to express strong opposition to it. In view of what he said earlier about architects, I thought that he might consider that on every possible occasion, for whatever error had been committed, architects should be subject to the provisions of the Bill and to disciplinary action. But perhaps on reflection, the noble Earl feels that his earlier language was rather strong and therefore is prepared to go along with the amendment.

Although in the circumstances I must withdraw the amendment at this stage, if there is no discretion I may return to the matter on Report. It may well be that in the interval between now and Report, the Minister will write to me to point out what both the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and I have missed or, alternatively, I may discover for myself that the element of discretion exists satisfactorily.

Lord Monkswell

Perhaps I may intervene to ask the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, what discretion he suggests should be written in. It would concern me greatly if all allegations were not investigated. The Bill is silent as to the extent of those investigations. I would hope that even where an accusation has been made that appears vexatious, some degree of investigation, even though it may be fairly minimal, takes place and that no accusation or allegation is dismissed as trivial or insubstantial.

As I said, the Bill as I read it does not give any explanation as to how much investigation would take place. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, will accept that we must ensure that all allegations are investigated, even though it may not be in great depth.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I agree with that. It is an extremely important point because there must be no presumption of any matter being vexatious. It must be investigated to see whether or not it is. However, I have tabled this amendment in these precise terms to ensure that anything which is not serious or repeated should not have the results which are set out in Clause 117. But I can see from the movement of the Minister that he has extremely important matters to divulge to the Committee.

Lord Lucas

I really wish to stand by what I said in my initial answer. Clearly, reading Clause 117, if it appears to the registrar that a person may be guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or incompetence or if an allegation is made to that effect, then the matter will be investigated. There is no discretion there.

The discretion comes in at the next stage when the persons investigating the case must find that a registered person has a case to answer. That is the first filter. Unsubstantiated allegations will drop out at that stage. The professional conduct committee must then satisfy itself that what is alleged has actually occurred. I presume that some allegations will drop out at that stage too. The professional conduct committee may then find that what has occurred is of such little import that it makes no award against the architect concerned.

Those are the three levels of discretion which exist in the Bill as amended once my amendments are accepted. I believe that that is the right arrangement and that people can be sure that their allegations will be investigated. However, there are adequate filters to make sure that unsubstantiated allegations do not take up a lot of time.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

I am grateful to the Minister. I believe that he provides some reassurance for me and for the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, by setting out the various stages which are followed in those circumstances. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 204, 205, 206, 207 and 208: Page 68, leave out lines 28 to 37 and insert— ("(1) The Professional Conduct Committee may make a disciplinary order in relation to a registered person if—

  1. (a) it is satisfied, after considering his case, that he is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or professional incompetence; or
  2. (b) he has been convicted of a criminal offence other than an offence which has no material relevance to his fitness to practise as an architect.").
Page 69, line 4, leave out from ("persons") to ("disciplinary") in line 8 and insert ("whom it has found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or professional incompetence or in relation to whom it has made a disciplinary order under subsection (1)(b); and (b) in the case of each person a description of the conduct, incompetence or offence concerned and the nature of any"). Page 69, line 23, leave out ("(1)") and insert ("(1)(a)"). Page 69, line 26, leave out ("(2)") and insert ("(1)(b)"). Page 69, line 34, leave out ("penalty order or a suspension") and insert ("suspension order or an erasure").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to these amendments when I moved Amendment No. 202. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 117, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 118 agreed to.

Clause 119 [Offence of practising while not registered]:

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 209: Page 71, line 4, after second ("Act")") insert—

  1. ("(a) in subsection (1), after " "Architect" " where it first occurs, insert "nor in the course of business hold himself out to be such by the use of similar words"; and
  2. (b)").

The noble Lord said: Members of the Committee may think that this matter is rather separate from the revision of the Architects Registration Acts, which is the important part of Part III. But I think it is wholly appropriate that I should briefly raise this question because it involves an extremely important measure of consumer protection.

By defining what an architect is and which form of words so describes a registered architect, the amendment seeks to prevent those who might believe that there is some advantage in being thought to be an architect sailing under false colours, adopting misleading identities and in effect disguising themselves as architects.

I know that over a long period of time, the existing registration body has had a great deal to do in trying to ensure that clients and the public are under no misunderstanding as to who is and is not entitled to call himself an architect. There was very limited provision—and I refer to naval architects in the original legislation of 1931.

If any Members of the Committee look at the yellow pages of a telephone directory or in a local newspaper, they will see that many individuals purport to sail under that title. Some of them use a spelling like a-r-k-i-t-e-c-t because that spells out phonetically the word "architect". Some refer to themselves as providing architects' design services and some refer to a complete architectural service. It is reasonable for lay people to assume that those people are qualified and registered architects. They may then be misled into employing individuals who are not qualified to do the job for which they have been sought.

Again, I look at the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, when I say that I wish to make it absolutely clear that there is no intention here at all to exclude from the performance of their proper skills members of other professions. However, I am sure that the noble Earl would not like any individual to masquerade with the title of "surveyor" if he were not qualified to do so. All I am suggesting is that this Chamber should contribute towards making it more difficult for those who are not architects, who are not qualified and who have not been entered within the profession to claim that they are so.

I hope that the Minister will not suggest that the problem is common to all professions. Whether or not it is remains to be seen. If the Minister claims that it is, I should like to have illustrations, for example, from the profession of medicine which do not cause problems that ought to be remedied. But if indeed it is common to other professions, that, of itself, is hardly a case for failing to remedy the abuse of the position of architect under the provisions of the Bill. Why should we fail to do what ought to be done simply because the opportunity is not before us to do likewise for other professions?

The alternative argument is that we should educate the public. Well, we have had 65 years of seeking to educate the public about who is or is not a registered architect. Within the provisions now before the Committee, it may be possible for the new registration body to run a campaign to help the public understand who is and who is not an architect. But, as I said, there has been limited success in that respect. The existing registration body has spent a good deal of time seeking to protect the public from those who have masqueraded as architects in one way or another.

I am sure that the Minister will deplore misrepresentation in so far as some people claim to be architects when they are not so qualified. However, if the Minister is not prepared to accept the amendment today because it is not, perhaps, ideally drafted, it would be most reassuring if he would undertake to consider a similar amendment at a later stage. Whatever the outcome of today's discussion, that is something I should like to consider in the light of the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs

I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Rogers of Quarry Bank, is seeking to do, but I have some fears that his amendment would go much further than his stated intention. I am not clear whether the terminology is as precise as he suggested. The noble Lord used words like "misrepresentation" and "masquerade" to describe people who are in professions other than architecture but who provide professional services which have some relationship to what the general public would consider to be building work, architecture and so on. I am worried lest the effect of the amendment would prove to be far more restrictive than would be acceptable, given the fact that other professions are also allowed to undertake some of the work in the building area.

I am not clear what the expression "use of similar words" actually means in the amendment. If it means that no person should pretend to be an architect when he is not, then that is beyond challenge. However, if the noble Lord is seeking to prevent other professions providing certain services to the public—for example, design services, building conservation and so on—I am concerned lest the effect of the amendment would prove to be duly restrictive and too protective of the architectural profession at the expense of others.

6.15 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

I have a few points to make to the noble Lord, Lord Rogers. When I spoke earlier I was trying to make clear that some of the architects with whom I dealt in the past—and, indeed, with whom I still deal—who are not masquerading as architects and are fully qualified have not provided the service that would entitle them to be set up on a pedestal. However, my real point is that I believe that the registering of title is a totally outdated and outmoded form for any organisation to undertake. That applies particularly to one part of this wide profession—the architects—who seek to maintain it. That is the bane of what I was trying to say.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, I shall continue to use architects because some of them are extremely good. However, it is only right that I should point out that I have had many bad experiences as indeed have other people. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. I find the amendment to be very ambiguous. I was reassured to some extent by what the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, said. If someone tries to pose as an architect who is not so qualified, I believe that such a provision would be fair. But many people provide services which are very similar to those provided by architects and we should allow such services to continue; for example, chartered building surveyors provide a host of services.

Part of my training was spent in designing and adapting buildings. If now, in my profession as an estate agent, I wish to draw plans of a house for sale and show the plans on the particulars for sale, would the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, allow me to do so? I spent six years trying to get qualified and eventually did so. Surely I can use that part of my professional training. That is the point which concerns the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and myself; namely, that the amendment would actually prove to be a great deal wider than the noble Lord realises.

Lord Howie of Troon

I apologise for joining the debate rather late. The protection of title is a most important matter. I say that because there has been a tradition of disquiet between the architectural profession so eloquently represented by the noble Lord, Lord Rogers, and the civil engineering profession so ineloquently misrepresented here by myself. We have always been at daggers drawn in various ways; but that does not apply to me personally. Indeed, I have the greatest admiration for architects and have said so on many occasions. As a structural engineer, I have assisted them in ensuring that their buildings stay up, which is always a good idea. Moreover, I have designed buildings—and very nasty they were. They were nasties because I am an engineer and not an architect. Had I been an architect, they would have been absolutely splendid.

The protection of title is important in the sense that when you buy an architect, so to speak, you buy an architect and not some kind of building technician who fancies himself to be an architect. If Members of the Committee take a profession where the title is not protected, they will see what I mean; for example, the title of "engineer" is not protected. People describe themselves and are described as engineers when in fact they are no more engineers than the noble Earl. But the noble Earl would never dream of doing such a thing because he is not an imposter; nor, indeed, are those people.

They are engineering technicians; for example, a television engineer is a mechanic. Then there are motor engineers. I know that my noble friend Lord Monkswell is an excellent engineer, although he gets a little above himself from time to time. The title of chartered engineer, the professional engineer of whom I speak, is not protected. I should like to see a Bill which would protect their title in the same way as the title of architect is protected. It is not a matter of closed shops or anything of that nature; it is a matter of presenting a professional expertise truly, openly, honestly and in a way which can be understood by reference to the register or to the Royal Institute of British Architects. I believe that the registration of title as regards architects is entirely to be supported. Indeed, it should be extended far beyond architects so as to cover others in the building arena, including the noble Earl opposite who is shaking his head for some reason. I should also like to protect him because he is obviously in need of protection.

The Earl of Caithness

Will the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, bear in mind that almost a logical consequence of protecting title is then to protect jobs? The European architects' directive has made working in Europe for many chartered building surveyors absolutely impossible. It has reduced their opportunity of carrying out work which they currently do as they are banned from so doing because of the registration of title.

Lord Howie of Troon

They are trying to do work which others could more properly and better do.

Lord Swinfen

Like my noble friend Lord Caithness I should declare an interest because I, too, am a surveyor. I quite understand what the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, is trying to do. He is trying to ensure that no one without appropriate qualifications can hold himself up to be professionally qualified as an architect. However, I suspect that his proposal could do serious damage to a number of surveyors who perform architectural services in that they are capable of, and do, design buildings and extensions, and supervise repairs and maintenance. I do not wish to be rude to architects because it is not my opinion but the chartered surveyor who trained me always said that the task of a chartered surveyor was to correct the mistakes made by architects. The noble Lord should find a different way of trying to achieve the purpose he rightly has in mind.

Lord Monkswell

As I have been alluded to in this debate, I rise to declare that I am an engineer. However, that term can encompass anything from a fitter at one end to a chartered engineer with tremendous professional competence at the other. I agree with my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon that there is a problem in this respect in this country. I suggest that it extends far wider and is of far greater import than Members of the Committee who have spoken today have mentioned. I give a couple of examples. Anyone, without any capability or qualification whatever, can set himself up as a plumber, an electrician or a roofing contractor. The problems that the general public experience as a result are horrendous.

In America—the "home of the free"—my brother works as a landscape contractor. If someone wants to set himself up as a landscape contractor in this country he need have absolutely no qualifications or professional competence whatever. He can hawk his services where he likes. In the state of California, however, a person wishing to practise as a landscape contractor not only has to receive some training and pass exams; he also has to be licensed by the local authority and must have professional indemnity insurance. If those sorts of restrictions can operate in what is described as the free capitalist economy of the United States, surely we can go some way towards emulating it. I would hope that the protection of architects embodied within the Bill was a step that we could, and should, willingly take. Notwithstanding that other areas of economic activity within our society are not so regulated, we should set out our stall to ensure the regulation of the architectural profession and then ensure the regulation of every other profession that bears on the lives of ordinary consumers.

Lord Lucas

We seem to have strayed rather wide in recent contributions. Heaven knows where the process might end if we allow it to carry on. We may be discussing qualifications for legislators even!

It is of fundamental importance, in matters concerning registration, that the general public should be given as precise and clear a definition as possible over who is registered and who is not. The Architects (Registration) Act 1938 achieves this by requiring that any person using the title "architect" in the course of his business has to be registered. There are specific exemptions for naval, landscape and golf course architects who are unlikely to be confused with the real thing. This is simple and easy to understand and does not allow any room for confusion or misinterpretation. It is the definition which the Government wish to retain.

There will always be unqualified persons who would like to pass themselves off as architects by using similar titles or designations. I have sympathy with the intent of the amendment to prevent such persons misleading the public. However, by expanding the scope of the protection to include similar words to "architect" the amendment would introduce a grey area over exactly what title is being protected. Someone who misspells the word "architect" is hardly likely to be mistaken for the sort of architect anyone would want to employ.

There are perfectly legitimate designations currently used by non-architects such as "architectural consultants", "architectural designers" and so on, which would be affected by the amendment. It is not in the interests of the public to weaken the distinction between these sorts of designation and the title "architect". Nor would it be fair to prevent persons using designations which accurately describe the work which they legitimately carry out, as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Caithness.

For these reasons, expansion of protection of title was never a part of the pack age of reforms which the Government, the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and ARCUK (Architects' Registration Council of the United Kingdom) agreed upon. Nor was it the subject of the consultation which the Government subsequently carried out. It would be unreasonable to introduce any change in the scope of protection of title without fully consulting all those who might be affected. I do not believe that such an exercise would ultimately serve the interests of either the architectural profession or the general public.

It may interest the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, to know that the title "surveyor" is a wide one. There is a Bill before this Chamber at the moment—the Party Wall Bill—where the term "surveyor" is specifically defined to include almost anyone who is competent to do the job that is required by that Bill and might even extend to cover architects if they wish to call themselves that. Therefore I do not believe the noble Lord can levy that charge against my noble friend.

Lord Howie of Troon

Has that Bill come before this Chamber?

Lord Lucas

Yes, indeed, I replied to its Second Reading.

Lord Howie of Troon

Is the Committee stage yet to come? Will we then discuss the matter to which the noble Lord has just referred?

Lord Lucas

I look forward to it. I was merely pointing out that there was no protection as regards the title of "surveyor". Indeed, the surveyors themselves who are promoting that Bill do not seem to have the worries that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, said they would. I hope that I have persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that any expansion of protection of title would be a complex matter and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

The Minister is, of course, right in saying that the matter of this amendment was not subject to any discussion between the profession and his department. I clearly said in my opening remarks that this might not seem to be wholly appropriate to the Architects (Registration) Act but that this was a suitable opportunity of the kind noble Lords seek to take to introduce desirable change on the basis of legislation before the Chamber.

I am sorry that there should be any misunderstanding about the amendment. With great respect to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I want to make it absolutely clear that, having seen the professions working together in the construction industry over a considerable period of time, it is only by working as a team that we can expect to achieve the quality of building which I know—despite his unfortunate experience—he and I would both like to see. Architects are very much dependent upon chartered surveyors. They work closely with structural engineers, building service engineers and civil engineers, and with many other professions. Nothing that I say today should be thought to cast doubt upon that or to imply that I should like architects—of which I am not one—to take work away from those in other professions whom they are dependent upon and who do excellent work within this industry.

The noble Earl referred to the amendments being ambiguous. Clearly I puzzled the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who said he thought that the amendment went too far. He believed the implication was that it prevented others from offering professional services. However, at present a man and woman with no qualifications in any profession can choose to use a form of description which could mislead the public.

The Minister believed that potential clients or clients would not be easily misled by the form of language to which I referred earlier. I hope the Minister will remember that many clients are small, once in a lifetime clients. They wish to extend their house; or perhaps a widow wishes to spend some money left to her on the death of her husband. Those men and women have no experience of the profession. They assume that there are regulations which prevent anyone who is not an architect purporting to be one. The purpose of my amendment is solely to protect such persons from the possibility of misrepresentation.

I recognise what the Minister says about a grey area. He seemed to be more passionate for consultation than Ministers usually are. I do not believe that it is a complex matter. The provision could be changed on the face of the Bill now if the Minister so wished and the Committee so decided. However, in view of the misunderstandings which appear to be common to both sides of the Chamber, I do not press the amendment. I shall consider fully what has been said, including the support received from the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. I shall consider whether it will be proper to come back to the matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 119 agreed to.

Clauses 120 and 121 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Architects]:

[Amendment No. 210 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

6.30 p.m.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank moved Amendment No. 211: Page 87, line 4, leave out from ("represent") to end of line 5 and insert ("consumer and public interests, none of whom should be from other trades or professions seen to be competitive with architects").

The noble Lord said: This is perhaps the most important of the amendments that I have put before the Committee today. The Minister may agree that the success or failure of the new body is dependent upon its structure, in particular the existence of the board. There has been a major step forward—I hope that Members on both sides of the Chamber will fully understand it—in the provision in the Bill for the governing body of registration in this country. The old council of ARCUK consisted of 77 members while the proposed new body consists of only 15. More importantly—it is the kernel of my amendment—of the 77 members of the old council, only seven were non-architects while a majority of the small new board will be independents. Under the provisions of the statutes, the great majority of ARCUK were members of the RIBA. There is no guarantee that the existing professional bodies will be represented in the elections of members of the new board, despite the fact that the RIBA represents 70 per cent. of the profession.

It is important—it is why I wholly support the provisions of the Bill—that if this new body is to be genuinely representative of the public, and within the intention of the Government the profession should not have a majority on the board. On the other hand, if this legislation is to be a success and to last as long as the previous legislation, the new body must have the full confidence of the profession. There is real concern within the profession about the proportion—a minority—of elected members to be appointed to the board, with no special provision for the representation of the professional bodies.

I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, considered whether it might be desirable to reverse the proportions. He decided not to proceed, I think rightly. But his thoughts fairly reflected the representations that many architects might make: that it is a step too far to reverse the proportions on what is a small board. To that extent the provision is a revolutionary change; and it is not surprising that architects have anxieties about it.

Their anxiety is compounded by the fear that the Bill as drafted will admit as independents (if I may use that word to describe those who are nominated effectively by the Government) men and women from professions competing with architects in the construction process, or those seeking to qualify for registration as architects when hitherto they have not done so. I hope the Minister will say that it is not the Government's intention to provide among those independents for professions which compete with the architects' profession any more than that would be appropriate if any of the other professions in the construction industry had such a registration Bill.

It is easy for many of us to assume that the profession is dominated by a number of large, well known firms or by very distinguished architects who are almost household names. That is not the case. It is a profession of small practices which on the whole have small clients. Those small clients are very diverse. Perhaps I may give three examples. There is the sole practitioner who had 32 projects in the past year, 25 of which were for domestic extensions, the largest an extension to a church. Then there is the medium-sized practice with 16 jobs on its books, almost all of which are in the public sector. Roughly 40 per cent. of those jobs are for individuals, or for first time clients. Then there is the large practice with 60 staff and 100 live projects, largely in education, the arts and leisure. It is a grave mistake to assume at present that the majority of architects work for large clients and in property development. That is simply not the case.

Those facts are not necessarily familiar even to Ministers. I believe that full account should be taken of those facts when deciding who the members of the board will be. The public sector remains important. That is in part central government, local government, hospital trusts, trusts in the field of education and in universities and their extensions. There has been a large building programme in that area. That large public sector should be represented in the appropriate way on the board.

I refer to housing associations. Although increasingly obliged for financial reasons to design and build, they now provide the great bulk of public sector housing. It is an important group of institutions which might be represented, if not formally, by individuals serving on the board.

There is the large number of quite small, once in a lifetime, domestic clients. The Government will have to consider how best they should be represented. It might be by someone involved in the consumer movement—either the National Consumer Council or the Consumers' Association. It could be someone working closely with the Citizens Advice Bureaux which are called upon from time to time to advise potential clients on how they may go about finding an architect. It may be someone from a women's institute. It will be for the Government to decide. I merely ask the Minister today to recognise that they should consider those kinds of bodies to find people who will constitute the lay membership of the board.

The legislation is not intended to protect Bovis, Wimpey or any of the major commercial property developers like Stewart Lipton, for example, a notable name and a company which has done excellent work. They all know where to find the right architect and how to obtain redress of a grievance, usually through the law, if a problem occurs. They can look after themselves and chop and change in their choice of architect. However, the ordinary man or woman, the once-in-a-lifetime client, is not in that position. I am sure that the Minister will be able to say that such people will be properly represented on the new board which will not be made up of people competing with the architects' profession. If he can say that, then I and the profession will be well content. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs

In Schedule 2 to the Bill, under the heading "Appointed members", there is the phrase: represent the interests of users of architectural services and the general public". I therefore assume that the Government have in mind a category of individuals who use architectural services. My understanding is that some users of architectural services are from the professions to which the noble Lord referred. It would be wrong if a large number of such professions were represented on the new board, but it seems to me that one or two would not come amiss, if it were thought proper in terms of their other contributions to the work.

I am concerned that a phrase as wide as "competitive with architects" should find its way into legislation. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, does not intend that, but the phrase is so wide that it is difficult to know who would be allowed to serve on the new body. I am worried that yet again the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, has gone further than I would have expected. I understand that he does not want a large number of persons from other professions to be appointed to the body and that is a proper concern. However, if one or two should appear on the body as users of architectural services, it might not be such a bad thing.

The Earl of Caithness

I hope that my noble friend Lord Lucas will resist the amendment as another piece of protectionism by architects. As drafted, the Bill is right. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, adduced a number of arguments for some good people who should be appointed to the board or who are worthy of consideration. Having listened carefully to him, I found no arguments why those who use the services of architects but who also compete with them—such as chartered building surveyors or chartered surveyors—should not be represented.

On an earlier amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, said that the professions had worked in harmony and should continue to do so. Having said that, it seems odd that the noble Lord should wish to exclude from the board those people with whom architects will work in the future.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon

There might be an answer to that proposition or a reason for it. Thirty years ago, when I was active in consulting engineering, I recall that such building professionals as chartered surveyors and the like—estimable people in almost every way—attempted to usurp the work of architects. They did so largely by insinuating themselves in as project managers. Being somewhat feeble, the architects permitted them to do that. When I returned to consulting engineering after a period in another place (from which I was ejected by popular appeal), I discovered that the quantity surveyors were attempting in the same way to insinuate themselves into consulting engineering. The consulting engineers were able to repel them, at least for a while. There is more to chartered surveyors than meets the eye, there is nothing wimpish about them. They are a serious competitive body of people who must be carefully watched. That is possibly why we do not want too many of them on this body.

It all boils down to what one considers a profession, what it is for and how it ought to be disciplined and arranged. To some extent, the manner in which the profession is arranged and disciplined is a definition of the profession itself. I was excited that my noble friend Lord Williams put down an earlier amendment which proposed a majority of architects on the board. I was about to put down a similar amendment, but since he had done so I did not. Unfortunately, he withdrew his and left me stranded like a whale. No doubt I shall put it down again on Report, because it was right.

The essence of a profession is that it is disciplined, organised and arranged by its members. It is different from a business. I know that noble Lords opposite are obsessed with the idea of the market, with businesses and similar matters and can think of nothing else. I absolve them from even considering the matter. However, that is not the case with my noble friends. They should consider the professions and what they are like. I shall advise my noble friends on the Front Bench where to look for a description of the ethos of the profession which might help and guide them in their attitude to this part of the Bill. I revert to a point which I have mentioned before in this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, will remember. It is a well known book called: The Acquisitive Society, by R.H. Tawney, a well known socialist. That word has perhaps gone out of popular usage lately. In his book, R. H. Tawney included an interesting chapter in which he discusses the industrial society and describes the professions as the model he would like to see an industrial society take.

My noble friends on the Front Bench will be happy to note that not only does R.H. Tawney say that, but he suggests that the pattern of professional institutions such as the RIBA—although he does not mention it by name—and other professional institutions which I have mentioned was the kind of pattern that the trade union movement should have taken.

In parenthesis, if my party had listened to Tawney in those days and had converted the trade unions into the same shape as the professional institutions, the world would have been a much better place than it is today. If a profession is to remain a profession and not be transformed into something else, it must retain a substantial measure of self-government. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, has gone a long way towards meeting the Government's views, much further than I like. If a profession is not self-governing, it ceases to be a profession. In so far as it ceases to be a profession, it loses its value to society.

Lord Lucas

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, seems to envisage his committee overrun by mice or perhaps chartered surveyors. I assure him that it will not happen. Although his fears may he understandable, they are unfounded. The wording of the paragraph closely reflects the text of the department's position paper, which had the support of both the Architect's Registration Council of the United Kingdom and the Royal Institute of British Architects. The Government's aim remains the same: that the appointed members should represent a balance between consumers of architectural services and the general public. The Government will consider very carefully who those appointed members should be. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that appointees should be independent men and women who wish to perform a public service and represent clients. I take his point too that there will be small, once in a lifetime clients who should be taken into account when the Government decide whom to appoint.

But I cannot agree that the Government's hands should be tied and that no one from another profession within the construction industry, however eminent or independent minded, should be nominated. Other professionals from the construction industry might well be able to make a useful and constructive contribution to the board, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said. To ban all such professionals from the board would almost be a requirement that none of the independent members on the board should have a clue as to what they are talking about. That would seem to be undesirable.

Having said that, there is no question of such a person or persons dominating the board. It is a matter of simple arithmetic. There will be seven elected architects and the remaining eight appointed members will be divided between those who represent the general public and those who represent the consumers, both big and small, of architectural services. Any appointees from the construction industry would be in a small minority.

Finally, I should remind the Committee that there will be consultation before any members are appointed. I assure the Committee that any responses that we receive will be considered very carefully. I hope that, in that very short reply, I have given the comfort that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, requires.

Baroness Hamwee

Before the noble Lord responds to that reply, may I ask with whom the Government are consulting? If one is talking about consumer interests and general interests, it is quite hard to know who the consultees should be.

Lord Lucas

I shall have to write to the noble Baroness on that matter.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to protectionism. There is no protectionism whatever intended in this amendment. However, he will, I hope, accept that within his profession he would not like architects to determine what is a suitable education for a chartered surveyor or indeed to decide who is properly qualified to enter the profession. I seek only to establish in this amendment that there will be no representatives on the new board who will see their task precisely as that—speaking for other professions competitive with architects and seeking to determine, as they might easily do, the conditions for entry and the form that architectural education should take. In that sense the amendment is not protectionist at all. I simply ask for architects to have done to them what they would want to do, no more and no less, to others.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, made a fair point, which is not apparent from the amendment, when he said that he did not see why there should not be two or three representatives—I want to come back to that word—of other professions on the board. I should prefer to say that I totally accept—it may not have been clear from the amendment, which is why I must reconsider the form of words used—that some who may serve on the board not as architects but as the so-called independent members may have other professional qualifications.

Lord Dubs

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. If I said "representatives" that was a slip of the tongue. What I meant was people who happen to be in other professions but who ought to be there because they are independently minded persons.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

The noble Lord's remarks are the perfect preface to what I am about to say. I am very glad that I carry him with me. The other day I had the opportunity of hearing someone who had been for many years the property manager of a major university, during which time he placed many contracts with architects and other professions. I have no idea of his profession, though it is highly probable that he is a chartered surveyor. But not for one moment would I consider him an unsuitable person to be a member of the board. He would be there not as a chartered surveyor but as someone who has experience as a client, and he would be there in an individual capacity.

As so often, the noble Lord, Lord Howie, was outspoken where I was conciliatory; passionate where I was emollient; and quoted R.H. Tawney where, as always, I seek to represent the moderate centre in such matters. But what he said about self-governing professions is very important indeed. It would apply not only to architects but to others as well.

In his closing remarks, the Minister made a very important and reassuring remark. He said that appointees should be independent and not representative. That is the heart of the matter. When men and women from other professions sit on the board, even if in one or two instances those professions may be competitive, if they are truly independent and do not seek to represent their professions, I do not feel that there could be any complaint.

I shall reflect further on what the noble Lord said and on the discussion that we have had. In the light of that, I shall withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 212 and 213 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 213A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Lucas moved Amendments Nos. 214 to 217: Page 90, line 40, leave out ("7ZA(2)") and insert ("7ZA(1)"). Page 91, line 8, leave out ("of the action concerned") and insert ("on which notice of the decision or order concerned is served on him"). Page 92, line 38, at end insert— 1990 No. 2 (". In section 20(1) of the Care of Cathedrals Measure 1990 (interpretation), in the definition of "architect", for "Architects Registration Acts 1931 to 1969" substitute "Architects Acts 1931 to 1996"."). Page 94, line 1, leave out ("shall not be required to make any disciplinary order, and"). Page 94, line 15, leave out ("this") and insert ("the 1931").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to Amendments Nos. 214 to 217 inclusive with Amendment No. 202. I beg to move the amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Lucas

I beg to move that the House be resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.