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Contents

- Composition of the Board

- Regulations made by ARCUK

- 2 Questions : How does the Architects Registration Board answer inquiries?

- The wider remit : an observation on the claim of former Board chairman Humphrey Lloyd that "Arb only fulfils its statutory role, no more".

- 2009 election : A majority of candidates support reform.

- Status of the Registrar as Registrar and when acting as Returning Officer.

- Occasional notes of Board meetings.

- RIBA Report On the Registration and Regulation of Architects by Sir Christopher Ball

- ARB and its statutory functions: another judicial precedent (April 2010)

- On persons offered appointment to the ARB or its PCC. (April 2010)

- The ARB continues to misconduct itself (May 2012)

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Composition of the Board

Part I of Schedule 1 of the Architects Act provides for the composition of the board.  8 lay members are appointed by the Privy Council while 7 are elected from the register by those on the register.

Information from the Clerk of the Privy Council given in April 2004 concerning the appointment of members indicated that it is usual for the Privy Council to appoint a committee for this purpose.  In the case of former members Mr Humphrey Lloyd QC and Mr Alan Crane CBE, a Committee consisting of the Rt Hon John Prescott MP, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Rt Hon Baroness Amos, Lord President of the Council was appointed although it did not meet for the purpose, signatures being applied separately. 

Board elections are held every three years with a clean slate.  If a vacancy among the elected members occurs, the board appoint another member from the register who holds the appointment until the next election round.  On the other hand appointed members may hold their posts for two periods of three years, with appointments made to fill casual vacancies as they occur lasting a full three years.  Thus the majority of appointed members, in addition to carrying the majority, also provide continuity across each triennium.

Elections are conducted by rules of the board approved by the Privy Council, called the Electoral Scheme. Under paragraph 8.1 of this scheme, the electoral system is described as being by single transferable vote based on rules prepared by the Electoral Reform Society.  However, although similar to the ERS Single Transferable Vote system, the scheme described is unlike the model because it is incapable of exact resolution.  The Electoral Reform Society, which counts the votes, have to fudge the result to make it work or, as they did in 2003, apply their own rules (rather than those approved by the Privy Council) to the count in order to achieve a result.

When these rules were proposed for approval in September 2004 the board minutes do not record the detailed discussion that took place the RIBA wrote to the Privy Council objecting to the scheme. Despite this, it is understood that the scheme was approved with only two signatories, Baroness Amos and John Prescott.

The Electoral Reform Society have said of the board's electoral system: "There are sufficient drafting inaccuracies in these rules for them to be problematic.  We are concerned at the reference to the ERS in these rules.  As far as the STV election goes, if you say these rules are based on the ERS rules, it is like saying 'she is a little bit pregnant'".

Doubts about the Electoral Scheme have also been raised over the board's chief executive acting as its returning officer.  Under the General Rules of the board, rule 4(iv), the chief executive acts on behalf of the board in implementing its policies "as is desirable or necessary for the efficient operation of the board's activities".  As returning officer, under paragraph 5.8 of the Electoral Scheme, those duties may include editing election statements of candidates "as appropriate" if the returning officer "believes that the statement requires editing". (See Status of the Registrar.)

In order to stand for election, since 2004 all candidates are required to sign a nomination paper confirming, among other matters, that they

 "undertake to observe and comply with the board's General Rules and the Board Members' Handbook".  (The Handbook * thereby ceases to be guidance, and becomes a rule of conduct.)

By paragraph 8.1 of the former Policy on Matters to be Discussed in Open and Closed Sessions of Board Meetings, which was incorporated into the Handbook, elected members were not only "be bound by decisions of the board or any committee of the board" but also that they would "not make any public comments which would call into question any decisions either past or present". 

The consequence of these arrangements for board members was that they were bound to conform to the board's decisions even if they consider those decisions to be unlawful; that members of the board sitting on the Professional Conduct Committee could not reach a decision objectively on the evidence before them; that members standing for re-election after a first term of three years could not write freely in their election statements; that members concerned, say, over the prudent management of the finances of the board could not discover financial information for themselves, and that if any board member cared to act in conscience, then they would be aware that the board has a history of enforcing its policies on its members through the courts.

Now, it is acknowledged, the Policy has been changed and is less oppressive, though it must be said that some would consider it unwise that there is no public accountability over a decision to take an item of business into closed session.   However, from 20 June 2008, when it comes into force, the Board will be influenced by The Architects (Recognition of European Qualifications etc and Saving and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2008 (S.I. 2008 No. 1331 - for which see Legislation), where at Regulation 21 provision is made for a new section 22c of the Act which prohibits the Board and the Registrar from disclosing certain information.

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* The Board Members’ Handbook is not published on the ARB website; those trying to find it through the internal search engine will find their path blocked by a password system.

The Handbook sets out Lord Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life.  The 5th Principle, openness, states: “Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take.  They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands”.

It is surprising therefore that the handbook contains the following provisions, which have been disclosed during open sessions of board meetings:–

-          “Although no clear authority can be cited, it should be assumed that members of the Board are under an obligation to maintain confidentiality in relation to such privileged information or indeed, in relation to any information concerning ARB.”

-           “The Board wishes to encourage openness in its proceedings.  However, until such time as it is agreed by the Board that a matter can be brought into the wide domain, confidentiality must prevail for all its proceedings and papers.” [ ^]

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