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McCarthy in legal threat to 'unlawful RIBA' proposal

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Former RIBA honorary secretary Maurice McCarthy warned he might take the institute to court over an 'improper' and 'unlawful' proposal it was attempting to pass this week to ensure all its corporate members are architects registered with the Architects' Registration Board (ARB).

At a council session set for yesterday, Portland Place was seeking to pass a motion that from next January all such members must be registered to end public 'confusion'. Under the proposal, all those who do not meet the requirement - including McCarthy himself - would be expelled, apart from overseas and retired members. That could be more than 800 people.

McCarthy said the institute would be exceeding its powers. He said the RIBA cannot create a new class of member without changing its charter or by-laws with the consent of the Privy Council and after a special general meeting or poll.

'The RIBA is a club with fundamental principles, but it can't discriminate, ' said McCarthy. 'It's my belief that it's unlawful and I might take it to the courts if council approves the proposal.'

If McCarthy does take the RIBA to court, council members approving the proposal would risk being jointly and severally liable for costs. Members of council are normally insured as charity trustees, but that insurance would not apply to the consequences of an act overturned by the High Court on the grounds that it was contrary to the Charter of general law.

The institute was expected to defer consideration of the policy. RIBA chief executive Richard Hastilow refused to comment on the issue before the council met yesterday.

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