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LETTERS

LETTERS

Abandoned clauses are cause for concern As usual, Kate McIntosh has identified the main problems that will arise over the abandonment of Clauses 3.1 and 3.3 of the RIBA Code of Conduct (AJ 4.9.03). She is not alone in her concerns.

As it stood, Clause 3.1 outlawed the giving and taking of inducements by members of the RIBA. Thirty years ago this summer newspapers were full of the arrest of the architect John Poulson, together with George Pottinger, a senior civil servant in the Scottish Office. He received £30,000 from Poulson.

They were both found guilty.

Next to go on trial with Poulson were T Dan Smith and Andrew Cunningham. Further lengthy sentences were handed down. Poulson had paid Smith £150,000 during the 1960s.

ARCUK, the ARB's predecessor, allowed Poulson to resign quietly. There were voices within the ranks of RIBA that we should allow that too, but wiser counsels prevailed. We expelled him.

How had a situation like this been allowed to arise?

The payment of inducements in public life was widespread before the Poulson affair. In the 1940s Poulson met Graham Tunbridge, estates manager for what later became British Railways.

Tunbridge controlled the letting of all the contracts in the eastern region. Through him Poulson got the contract to rebuild Cannon Street and East Croydon stations, plus offices around Waterloo. From the first meeting he was paid £25 a week by Poulson. Every Saturday one of Poulson's staff took him £25 in crisp new notes in a brown paper envelope to his office in a Nissen hut behind Waterloo Station.

All that largesse paid out by Poulson had one simple aim: he wanted work. Dan Smith used the money to bribe councillors the length and breadth of the UK. Between them they corrupted public life. Apart from huge sums of money, the inducements took the form of houses built, cars and clothes bought, school fees paid, leases bought, donations to a wife's favourite charity, luxury cruises and even a silver teapot.

The result of that scandal led to the setting up of a Select Committee on conduct of members of parliament and the Salmon Inquiry into standards of conduct in public life. Codes of practice were laid down for councillors and local government officers, civil servants and MPs.

We seem to be revisiting that grey area where public honesty again becomes questionable. To paraphrase Lord Salmon, 'if the RIBA does not play its part in preserving public honesty, it is likely to shake public confidence in the RIBA'.

At what point does an inducement stop and a bribe begin?

Sam Webb, Canterbury

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