Peter Phillips first came on council in 2002, when he took the place of a member who had died in the one remaining year he had left to serve. In 2003 Phillips stood as a national candidate and was elected third behind Valerie Owen and myself. He wanted to stand for a further two years to make up the six but the rules do not allow that. Apparently he wanted to get them changed.
My first introduction to his strange views came with the launch of the 'Women in Architecture' report. He seemed to think that women could not design because their brains were a different shape! The women on council forced him to retract, and from that point he openly said that I would never agree with any of his views. I became what he called 'one of the usual suspects', the 'PC Brigade', or a supporter of the 'Nanny State'.
The RIBA has a number of issues to tackle; the ARB is one. At the time Ian Salisbury was having his battle with the ARB, Phillips seized upon the issue as if he was the first person to think about it. The issue of the ARB v the RIBA goes back to the 1995/96 era and the Baden Hellard case. However, Phillips joined forces with Salisbury and others. I warned Ian of Phillips' extreme views, and said I wouldn't want him protecting my flank if I was going into battle. (He ignored me. ) I told others concerned with ARB and in the reform group about my fears.
Phillips claims to have been solely responsible for setting up the Highton Report. This is nonsense; it would have happened anyway. There was also concern about the AABC issue within and outside council; he seized on that too.
The RIBA has a series of committees on which people are asked to sit only if they have a genuine contribution to make.
Phillips took offence that no one wanted him on their committee.
We had all seen the time-wasting and strange views he held on council - at each meeting he would stand up and complain that not only he but others were not on any committees - which is true.
Committees are expensive to run and have to be efficient and economic. After one council meeting Phillips stood up and asked: 'Why don't we have pudding after lunch?'
He took up his cry again on behalf of the downtrodden masses on council who weren't on a committee (some don't wish to be on a committee and don't consider themselves downtrodden).
'Why aren't I on one?' he kept asking. (He was actually on one to do with arbitration but it didn't suit his purpose. ) Finally, to shut him up, council took a vote to put him on practice. No one asked us if we wanted him. It is rumoured that the chair, Richard Saxon, threatened to resign. He was out of the council when this was being discussed.
Phillips thus arrived on the practice committee and proceeded to take over. What had previously been a well-run, efficient committee became a bit of a shambles at times due to his constant interventions. We never finished the agenda.
He wanted us to adopt his idea of tradesmen's licensing when we were already working on the CSCS card scheme. This has 250,000 members and registers whether or not you have had basic H&S training. It will register quali-cations of tradesmen and it will be expanded. I sit on the CIC H&S Panel which has discussed the CSCS card at length, and also had discussions with other bodies at RIBA in the company of Richard Brindley and Brendon O'Connor. Phillips became so obsessed by something Brendon said about him over this that he made a formal complaint. I found this intolerable; the case was of course dismissed.
When I discovered Phillips was attending meetings at the ODPM's office and putting forward the RIBA's view on the Building Regulations, I became very alarmed and spoke to Brindley and O'Connor about it. He was introducing topics that had nothing to do with his remit - like tradesmen's licensing.
He doesn't go now.
I have always been deeply suspicious of Phillips' political views but never been able to put my finger on it. Others on council had their misgivings, but you can't ask someone in the polite company of the RIBA Council if they are a member of the BNP.
It may be that those members who supported Phillips and signed his nomination papers are now embarrassed and so try to say something good about him. Some are still saying he had 'some good ideas'. If he did, they escaped me.
Sam Webb, by email