|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
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.
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 However, my real point is that I believe that the registering of title is a totally outdated and outmoded form for any organisation to undertake.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
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 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
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.
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 package 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.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page