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RIBA wary of EC praise for 'unregulated' UK profession

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The RIBA has dismissed a report from the European Commission that applauds Britain for having one of the least regulated architecture professions in Europe.

The study, by the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) in Vienna, found that British architects were among the most lightly regulated in the European Union, along with their Danish, Irish, Dutch and Swedish counterparts. Italy, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany were found to have the most tightly restricted professions - Italian architects had a statistical regulation rating of 6.2 as against 4 for Spain, 3.1 for France, 1.4 for Finland and 0 for the UK.

John Wright, the RIBA's vice-president for international affairs, agreed with the findings of the study but questioned the motives behind it.

The report, which promotes liberalisation of the professions, concludes that lower regulation is better, claiming it encourages the growth in services without leaving consumers unprotected.

Although it found some evidence that low regulation regimes led to architects earning less, they also led to 'a proportionally higher number of practising professionals'.

'This is a typical free-market Thatcherite position, ' Wright said. 'It does not look after the interests of the consumer. And it doesn't regulate for high levels of education.' He added: 'The RIBA's position is in favour of better regulation.'

The EU is now calling for each individual country to justify its level of regulation and has issued a questionnaire for each regulatory body to complete.

Tillman Prinz, senior policy advisor at the Architects' Council of Europe, said he would be giving advice to member countries on their responses.

Prinz described the EU's position as perverse.

'Usually, you have to show why regulation is superfluous or burdensome. No one asks you to justify why you have regulation.' He warned that the report would be used by the Commission in its bid to abolish its specific Architects Directive and replace it with a catch-all document monitoring quality for all the professions.

However, RIBA president Paul Hyett disagreed with the insitute's official line. Hyett restated his position that even though the ARB had a negligable restriction rating it had still amplified its role from a registration body to a regulator.

The IAS survey was based on responses from national professional associations, and assessed regulations on market entry and conduct. These included rules on fees (fixed prices, minimum or maximum prices), advertising and marketing, inter-professional collaboration, geographical locations and practice organisation.

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