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RIBA in blast at government's international delegation 'snub'

The RIBA has hit out at the government's decision not to take a representative of the profession to a high-level meeting between the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Union of Architects (UIA).

The institute has condemned the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for its decision to take a delegate from the ARB but not from the RIBA. The negotiations, held last Friday, were to discuss a major new international agreement.

The WTO and UIA examined the General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) in relation to architecture, to work on a deal that could see the removal of international labour barriers, freeing British architects to work in many more countries.

Other governments took professional representatives but the UK's DTI decided it was 'not appropriate'. It only asked for one officer from the ARB, as its registration arm.

In a document seen by the AJ, a senior civil servant who attended the meeting, Graham Bartlett, wrote: 'This is not an opportunity for the industry to express an opinion. It should only be expressed through the national government's representatives'.

The DTI invited the ARB chief executive and registrar Robin Vaughan to accompany the delegation. Unable to attend, he decided to send head of education Jon Levett in his place. However, he too was unavailable so the ARB eventually settled on education executive Deborah Seddon.

RIBA vice-president of international relations John Wright said that it was a 'disgrace' that there was not a member of the institute on the delegation. 'Nearly all the world's governments are taking a professional representative.

'This meeting was critical for architects in the UK, 'Wright said. 'There will be real problems getting our views across without anyone being there.

'The government is boycotting the profession in this country apart from the ARB. It is an insult to architecture.'

And RIBA president Paul Hyett - speaking at a meeting of the institute's council last week - agreed. 'We should be deeply concerned that the only representative of the profession in Britain is an individual from the ARB, ' he said.

Vaughan said he too had been surprised that the government had not included the RIBA in its delegation. 'When we were invited, we naturally asked whether the profession was sending any representatives.

'The DTI made it clear that the meeting was only for government and its registrar. However, I can understand the frustration that those in professional organisations may feel, ' he added.

After the WTO meeting, Seddon told the AJ: 'If the government had wanted a long discussion with the profession then I am sure they would have invited more representatives. But as it was there was no representative of the RIBA.

'The meeting was successful, there was progress made and there was further discussions about a GATS agreement, ' Seddon added.

Talks will resume in September.

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