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Penrose in, Vaizey out: the architecture minister saga


Ed Vaizey has lasted just four days as architecture minister following a decision to switch those duties to fellow Tory John Penrose

Little known in the world of architecture, the MP for Weston-super-Mare and ex-Shadow Minister for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory has become the third architecture minister in a month. Prior to Penrose’s arrival, Vaizey had taken the hotseat from controversial figure Margaret Hodge and had been welcomed by the likes of RIBA who praised his ‘vast interest in architecture and the built environment’.

However Vaizey’s role in the new coalition government has now been officially confirmed as minister for ‘Arts, Media, Museums and Galleries, Telecoms and Broadband, Digital Switchover, Creative Industries, Libraries.’

Meanwhile Penrose, a former chairman of educational software company Logotron and the husband of Talk Talk managing director Dido Harding, has been given responsibility for Tourism, Heritage and the Built Environment, Royal Parks and Royal Household, National Lottery, Licensing, Gambling, Horseracing.

A spokeman for the Department of Culture, Media and sport said: ‘With Penrose becoming Minister for Tourism and Heritage, [it is] the first time the built environment has been included in a formal ministerial title for decades.  He has had them added to his brief in recognition of the vital role these things play in our tourism offer to the world, and to demonstrate the importance that the department attaches to them.’

Vaizey’s swan song as architecture minister was to introduce Kevin McCloud at the RIBA Trust annual lecture on Tuesday night at the RIBA.

Previous story (17.05.10)

Ed Vaizey named as new architecture minister

Conservative MP Ed Vaizey has been named as the country’s new architecture minister following the formation of the coalition government

Vaizey replaces controversial predecessor Margaret Hodge as under secretary of state Department for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

The 42-year-old MP for Wantage and Didcot told the AJ last week he still intends to make good his pledge to scrap the ARB (AJ 30.09.10) and transfer part of its role to the RIBA and potentially ‘bring a small annual cost saving to all architects’.

Back in September last year Vaizey described the government-funded body, which has regulated the architectural profession since 1997, as a ‘working example’ of how organisations can focus on self-preservation ‘whether or not it is in the public’s best interest’.

The minister, who is a trustee of both the Heritage of London Trust and the National Churches Trust, is no stranger to the world of architecture having regularly met with the RIBA during his role as shadow culture minister and has publicly backed CABE, claiming the government’s design watchdog was ‘in part responsible for my architectural education’.

Catherine Croft, director at the Twentieth Century Society, welcomed the news. She said: ‘It’s good news to have someone with a genuine interest in architecture and great communications skills in the post—-we hope he’ll share our passion for preserving the best buildings of the C20th and not be prejudiced against the recent past.’

Previous story (12.05.10)

New Government: architecture minister Hodge out; ARB still to go

The new coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has spelt the end for controversial architecture minister Margaret Hodge.



Readers' comments (5)

  • The RIBA pressure on goverment to abolish ARB is very dangerous. It will be supported enthusiastically by those who want us to lose protection of title. Sel regulation is not popular - remember the M.P's expenses!! We cannot afford to risk losing protection of title. Every Tom Dick and Harry will be able to call them selves architects. Who will study 5 years to become an architect when you can take a short course or no course at all and use the title. The idea that the use of the title "RIBA Chartered Architect" will compensate is wishful thinking.

    Owen Luder CBE PPRIBA

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  • Good comment from Owen Luder (a past chair of ARB), but I don't agree. ARB provides the profession with quasi monopoly status and it is therefore not surprising that those who could not withstand a free market in services are fearful of its demise. Public protection in the building industry is adequately dealt with by the Building Regulations, whereas the monopoly status arguably does the reverse. There is a clear argument that repealing the Architects Act will benefit not only the built environment but also enhance aesthetic standards.

    If there is any doubt about this, compare UK with a country such as Finland (there are many others) which has no comparable protection, or NZ where there is protection but a healthy market, particularly in house design, with architectural designers.

    But I think perhaps the most interesting consequence of a repeal would be an improvement in fees.

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  • I think you both should declare an interest. I fail to see how the removal of the legally protected title could be beneficial to architects, particularly as there are many of us who do not wish to be part of the RIBA.

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  • As the public fail to understand the title Architect is protected, then there is arguably no point protecting it.

    The differentiation between a Chartered Architect and a Architect could create the same situation as Accountants and Chartered Accountants - In that, people generally understand the difference by use of a traditional prefix - rather than the current system, where the public believe completely dissimilar titles are interchangeable (Architect / Architectural Designers etc.)

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  • It is clear that ARB has great expertise as a regulator, and is providing protection to the consumer and architect by being independent.

    This is a critical position to maintain to ensure the profession and consumer is protected. and the loss of this independence by the profession being self regulatory (or perceived as being self regulatory) will do no no good service to either the profession or the consumer.

    Be careful what you wish for RIBA...if granted the consequences may not be what you expect. There is plenty of evidence across all other professions and bodies , including MP's, to show the damage done by self regulation in the eyes of the public. Do you really think any minister now will want to support a view that regulation should not be done , and percieved to be done,at arm's length from the regulated organisation? Times have changed since RIBA took the step of agreeing a policy to banish ARB..and the politics have changed out of all recognition too.

    In fact, there is a very good working relationship between ARB and RIBA, and a very productive one. Lets recognise the collaborative importance of the two organisations working together and where each has its seperate and independent expertise.

    Fees? If you believe you will save in fees by having one organisation, well, surely no one is that naive?

    In summary- as someone who employs architectural firms, all I can add is Get real, get out of your inward looking world, and make sure you continue as a profession to be highly regarded- and you will continue to get work. Dont forget EU competition...


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