Expat Peter Arnold (Letters, AJ 12.04.07) seems to share with his American hosts the quaint belief that anything that happened before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated can be disregarded. In fact, the rules in Vaughn v Taff Valley Railway (1860), referred to in my earlier letter (AJ 15.03.07), and its sister case, Ashbury Railway v Riche (1875), form the foundation of British law on controlling statutory bodies. The relevance is that the ARB's sanctioning use of its logo on letterheads is unlawful.
Although the ARB cannot prevent use of the letters ARB by unregistered persons if they refer to one of many other legitimate meanings, it can sanction registered architects for using the letters as an affix when fraudulently purporting to signify a professional qualification or membership. This is the opposite of what those wishing to avoid use of the term 'chartered architect' or affix 'RIBA' would like.
The real issue for the profession is what to do if the Conservatives honour their pledge to abolish the ARB. Some 9,000 practising architects choose not to belong to the RIBA and thus cannot promote themselves as a 'chartered architect'. This must be due to the subscription. In my view the RIBA should endeavour to halve subscription costs in real terms over the next three years, but this ambitious target would require radical change.
I would like to see a 'design champion' elected as RIBA president for life, to act as a figurehead and spokesman for the profession, removed from organisational politics. The council should be abolished and replaced by a nationally elected board of trustees comprising 12 members, none of whom are staff. All member involvement should be at branch level, with funding dependent on activities such as explaining the profession to schools.
The profession could also lobby for the legislative changes required by the EU's Unfair Commercial Practices Directive - which must come into force no later than 12 December 2007 - to make it an offence to lay claim to professional skills without justifying qualifications. This simple measure would provide effective protection of title, protecting the profession from what it fears most - false claims by surveyors and others.
Maurice McCarthy, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire