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Pringle launches ARB broadside

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The spat between the RIBA and the ARB over professional insurance has escalated into full-scale warfare after the board's legal stance was openly attacked by the institute's president-elect Jack Pringle.

In a letter to the ARB chairman Humphrey Lloyd, Pringle criticised the board for extending its powers beyond those set down in the Architects Act (1997).

The final straw for the RIBA came when the board decided to prosecute six architects for failing to comply with professional indemnity insurance rules earlier in the year (AJ 24.3.05).

It was a move that, according to Pringle, lacked legal basis and fell well outside the board's intended remit.

'The RIBA has accepted that the ARB can usefully issue guidance to registrants on what levels of insurance are generally reasonable, ' Pringle's letter stated.

'However, the RIBA does not accept that the ARB can convert such guidance into prescriptive requirements with which architects must comply under threat of penal sanction, ' it continued.

In addition, he claims, Parliament never envisaged the ARB carrying out this policing role when the board was set up in 1997.

Questions were also raised over the board's failure to publish its own legal advice that justifies its position. Pringle again suggested that the ARB is on shaky ground. 'The RIBA can only draw the conclusion from this that the ARB's advice may not stand scrutiny, ' he said.

The letter has been praised by former board member Ian Salisbury, who has repeatedly badgered the ARB about the legalities of its prosecution policy.

Salisbury said: 'This is very much the case of the emperor's new clothes. It shows the ARB's advice is wanting. Now there is no possible reason for the ARB to withhold the advice it has received.' It is unlikely that this broadside will deter the board from proceeding with more prosecutions in July. One of those waiting to face the ARB's wrath is demanding the charges are dropped.

The architect, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: 'Having read the letter from Jack Pringle, I now feel that the ARB has no justification whatsoever in bringing the charges against me at enormous cost both to the practice and the register at large. I expect those charges now to be withdrawn.'

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