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- A useful 21st-century function? : concerning the merits of statutory registration.

- Analysis of the Architects Act 1997

- The Royal Institute of British Architects : concerning proposals for consultation and suggestions for reform.

- Another regime? : whether technical sufficiency, properly certified under current statutory provisions, may bring improved reassurance to the public and to building owners and developers.

- The option of dissolution

- Proposed amendments to allow for the free movement of architects within the EC (Public consultation, August 2007)

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A useful 21st-century function?

Among members of the profession, and the professionís friends and well-wishers, opinions have been divided for well over a century about the merits of statutory registration. Both supporters and opponents of statutory registration have included some who believed it tended to weaken the influence of the RIBA, or other chartered bodies, and some who believed the contrary. It is probable that today there is a large proportion who have no very definite opinion or who are not well enough advised to be able to form an opinion upon which any one else could usefully rely. It is a fact, however, that feelings about the matter can range from the tepid to the furious.

The result is that Parliament, as the legislator and guided by the government, has had to maintain as best it can a state of benevolent neutrality among the holders of these contending views, consistent with more general public policies for business competition, employment, professional education and so on. The Act cannot properly be claimed by any one of the high-minded factions or sectional interests as being in furtherance of any one particular interest rather than another. Some critics may carp that statutory registration is good for so little that it is of no further practical use; others that its usefulness would benefit from some tweaking and tuning. All parties reckon that there is no room for complacency.

Today, some practitioners or other architects may have forgotten what they used to know about the Register and the context in which they felt that it had a more or less useful function; some may not have reviewed carefully enough what use it may have in the changing circumstances of the 21st century; responsible policy-makers may have been side-tracked and lost sight of the way forward. The following gives some pointers for policy-makers and inquirers.

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Analysis of the Architects Act 1997

Architect or not, if you would like to have an up to date knowledge of the way the present Register of Architects operates, an analysis of the Act itself may be a useful start (Printable version).  It pays attention to details which sometimes go unnoticed, with some passing remarks and questions for policy-makers.

See also: some statements and observations, and a suggestion that may be of interest to inquirers and policy makers (Printable version). (Adobe Acrobat Reader required - download.)

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The Royal Institute of British Architects

The RIBA, being apprised of the concerns of its members and the report prepared by the late Michael Highton, decided to consult others over certain proposals for the amendment of the Act.  The consultation paper was approved by the RIBA's Council on 30 June 2005. (See also the Regulatory Reform Act.)

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Another regime?

In the 21st century, a registration regime concerned with the technical sufficiency of buildings is likely to be more useful than the mere protection of the business use of the title 'architect' under the ARB regime could ever be.  This could apply to persons specifically qualified, whether in the field of architecture, engineering, or surveying. That is, registration would be across all disciplines contributing to the building process.

If that proposal were adopted, all the chartered bodies would be expected to collaborate in enabling it to be done.  It could be a better bargain both for the public at large and for clients who, as building owners and developers, are required to comply with statutory provisions under the Building Acts.  In this connection, responsible policy-makers could consider the existing provisions of the Building Act 1984 (sections 17 and 49) and the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 (sections 7 and 11), and the enabling powers given respectively to the Secretary of State and Scottish Ministers under these Acts.

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The option of dissolution

In the event that another regime is considered, care will be needed to protect the interests of those few who benefit directly from the activities of the Board, principally its employees.  But attention will also be needed to ensure that protection is provided both for the liabilities of the Board and for the return of the balance of its assets to those who have funded it.

A similar process was conducted by the Treasury in March 2001 when it ordered the dissolution of the Insurance Brokers Registration Council.  

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Proposed amendments

The Department for Communities and Local Government has responsibility for laying regulations which will amend the Act so that it conforms with the requirements of EC Directive 2005/36/EC for architects.

In August 2007, a consultation paper was issued by the Department containing draft regulations for the amendment of the Act.  In an attached paper, a contributor comments on the draft regulations. (html/pdf)

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