News of an 1875 House of Lords decision has yet to reach many in the legal profession and some still advise that a particular course of action is within the powers of a statutory body if there is no statutory prohibition against it. In fact, a statutory body can do only that which it is empowered by statute to do.
The rules of law applicable to the ARB can be expressed thus:
the ARB must not take any action contrary to the public interest;
it must not exercise any power not expressly granted in the relevant Act; and l it must exercise all the powers the relevant Act states it must.
Kate Macintosh's concern (AJ 26.5.05) that the members could remove all of those elected by the profession is unfounded. This would be unlawful as contrary to the public interest.
Jack Pringle's allegation that the ARB has extended its powers is nonsense. The ARB cannot lawfully exercise any power not expressly set out in the Architects Act.
The ARB must prosecute unregistered persons using the title 'architect' in the course of business in the UK. However, it will not prosecute the person designated 'project architect' employed by a government department following a recent advertisement because the titles 'system architect', 'technical architect' and 'project architect' are all related to IT.
The ARB is entitled to make adequate PII a requirement of its Code of Conduct and to take disciplinary proceedings (not prosecute, as you report in AJ 26.5.05) against those on the register in breach of that. It is not entitled to make PII a prerequisite of being admitted to the register because the admission criteria are set down in the Act.
Expulsion from the register can only be expressed in terms of a reasonably short period, following which the expelled person can apply to be re-admitted. Any such application must be considered on its merits in accordance with the normal admission criteria. It would be unlawful for the ARB to remove a person's name from the register 'until that person procures PII'.
Thus, mounting disciplinary hearings against the six architects is within the ARB's powers, but any subsequent sanction could be unlawful.
Leaking letters containing unsustainable accusations achieves nothing and potentially brings the profession into disrepute. The RIBA should take proper legal advice and, if grounds exist, commence judicial review proceedings.
Maurice McCarthy, Chorleywood