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ARB pleases no-one with disciplinary procedures

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In responding to criticisms of the ARB's performance of its role, its registrar rehearses its disciplinary procedures at some length, but misses the point.

There are two issues. First, there is the disturbing manner in which the process is carried out, as exemplified by what has been published about the Ingrid Morris case. Secondly, there is the relative triviality of the cases which are caught in the net, such as Morris and Baden-Hellard, that demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the system.

Both architects and their dissatisfied clients are ill-served: the former because, as the examples show, they can be put to significant emotional and financial expense with no redress if found innocent or guilty of some minor lapse, and the latter because - in the small-scale projects usually involved - the aggrieved client, I am sure, wants financial compensation which the ARB cannot give, not some form of revenge.

Instead of addressing these issues, the ARB seems to expend more energy in tussling with the RIBA about the oversight of education, thus undermining a nationally and internationally important enterprise to which the institute's members have given an unquantifiable voluntary effort for more than a century.But this is not really the fault of the ARB as such: it is the outcome of flawed legislation which has left the profession to pay the not inconsiderable costs of what is, on the whole, negative bureaucracy.

Is it not time, after the three years or so of operation of the Architects Act 1997 have revealed such significant problems, for a review of the existence, wording and functioning of the Act? Perhaps it is encouraging in this context that the Office of Fair Tr a d i n g (OFT) appears to be taking an interest: after all, there cannot be much else about the profession that need concern the OFT when we have only to look around to see how much it is now achieving.

Peter Gibbs-Kennet, Bisley, Gloucestershire

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