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Minister encourages ARB debate

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Cabinet office minister Douglas Alexander has written to ARB rebel Ian Salisbury, challenging the profession to draw up its own plans for the reform of the regulator.

The minister said in the letter last week that he is determined to understand the problems and issues the profession at large has with the ARB.

Salisbury - who was elected to the board on a 'pare back the ARB' ticket and announced his bid for the RIBA presidency last week - has greeted the letter with delight, insisting it is the first time 'such a senior member of the government has expressed an understanding of the issues at stake'.

The letter, which was written in response to a conversation between Salisbury and one of Alexander's chief advisers, asked for architects to contact the Business Regulation Team (BRT), a unit of the Cabinet Office.

'The BRT is encouraging the profession itself to develop, agree and put forward a proposal for regulatory change, ' the letter says. 'Such a proposal should describe the revised regulatory regime that is being sought, list the reasons why changes are necessary or desirable, and set out in particular the arguments to show that no necessary protections will be lost.'

Alexander also gave the government's blessing to the RIBA's current review of the ARB's position, insisting he was keen to 'review its findings'.

Salisbury described the letter as 'fantastic news'. 'This letter was from a cabinet minister, which is amazing, ' he said. 'You couldn't have a more senior minister dealing with this matter than the prime minister himself. This is the first time the government has really said it is keen to hear about options for reform.

'It seems to me that this is a signal that the government is on the verge of doing something, ' he added. 'I think it is looking at southern Ireland, where registration has just been handed to the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.'

However, ARB board member Yasmin Shariff was more cautious. 'It seems the government is interested in reform, but it really is very unlikely it will hand regulation to the RIBA, ' she warned. 'I, for one, would like to see the end of the ongoing squabbling between members of the board and the RIBA, as it is only the profession that suffers.'

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