Orders of the Day — ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BILL [Lords].

– in the House of Commons on 5th March 1929.

Alert me about debates like this

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th February]: That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

Photo of Colonel Sir Joseph Nall Colonel Sir Joseph Nall , Manchester Hulme

I cannot think that those who back this Bill expect it to be passed without due Debate. There are several aspects of the Bill which have been considered from time to time, and I must remind the House that on a previous occasion when this Bill was presented it was not passed. True, the subject of the Bill was considered at some length by a Select Committee, but I believe that legislation of this kind is wholly unnecessary, would be detrimental to the interests concerned, and would be against the public interest. There is in existence an Institute of British Architects, which for many reasons and in many ways commands the respect of the general public, and it is a singular comment on that Institute that those who are, quite rightly, its supporters should not be content with the merits of that Institute as it exists to-day, but should endeavour to rely on the statutory compulsion of those engaged in the architectural profession to join the Institute.

A number of circulars have from time to time been sent to hon. Members, and I am entirely at a loss to understand on what ground some of the arguments in favour of this Bill can be advanced. It is said that if only members who come within the registration scheme involved in this Bill are allowed to draw plans and design new buildings, the public safety will be secured and the amenities of the countryside will be safeguarded. I should profoundly disagree with that proposition. It is within the knowledge of hon. Members of this House that some of the most outrageous designs up and down the countryside have emerged from the brains of men who were already members of the Royal Institute of British Architects. [An HON. MEMBER: "Name!"] Far be it from me publicly to announce the name of any particular architect in this connection, but it is the fact that up and down England to-day, although there are new building schemes going on which show a marked advance on what has been done in the past, here and there you will find the most outrageous, ugly buildings, which completely spoil the amenities of some of the most delightful parts of England.

There is absolutely no distinction between architects who are members of the Institute and those surveyors or architects, as they may be, who are outside it. You will find that some of the most deplorable designs are the result of the work of members of the Royal Institute of British Architects, while some of the most attractive housing schemes are the result of the careful thought of men who have never aspired to be, never hope to be, members of that Institute. This Bill would seriously handicap professional employment for a very large number of people such as engineers, surveyors and others engaged in the building trade, who have never been trained to be and do not want to be architects within the restricted sense of the word under this legislation. To subject those people to the tyranny it is desired to set up under this Bill, would, in my view, be something which is opposed to the traditional spirit of this country.

I will ask the House to consider what is involved in this Measure. A council is to be set up which is to maintain a register of architects. That council is to appoint officers. Then there is a definition of persons who are entitled to be registered without examination. The council is to prescribe future qualifications for registration. It may remove the names of persons from the register, and may restore other names to the register. An appeal against refusal to register may be made. And so on. On what grounds can it be urged that the designing of buildings, whether for private or public use, has fallen into such a low state that a Measure of this kind is necessary? In my view, there is absolutely no justification for a Bill of this kind, and it is to the prejudice of the reputation of the Royal Institute of British Architects that any Measure such as this should be presented to the House. If that Institute is what it purports to be, if it be worthy of public esteem, then it should rely upon its own merits to attract the membership of those who are entitled to be regarded as architects of the first rank. To say that men who are engaged in the plainer and more utilitarian branches of public building should be excluded from that Institute merely because they fail to comply with the provisions which it is proposed to set up under this Bill is altogether unreasonable, and I hope that at this late hour the House will not give a Second Reading to a Measure which has previously been rejected, for which there is no public demand, and which certainly ought not to command the support of this House.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

It fills me with surprise when I see hon. Members seeking to sneak this Bill through the House of Commons in this way.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

It is not a question of sneaking the Bill through because it is down on the Order Paper.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Up to the present, no one has taken the usual course of explaining the Bill to the House.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

I am ready to explain it.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I think it is the duty of the promoters of this Bill to explain the Measure to their colleagues.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

This Bill has already been explained in the House and hon. Members are fully acquainted with the whole of the Clauses, its implications and its meaning. I am only waiting to find out those who are antagonistic to this Bill in order that I may be able to reply to their arguments.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

When a Bill of this kind is brought forward it is usual for some hon. Member to get up and explain its provisions. There is contained in this Measure vicious principles which cannot be commended to the House. It has been said that this Measure is a first-class trade union bill. It is very strange that hon. Members who are supporting this Measure should have been engaged not long ago in smashing trade unions connected with bricklayers and others. Now the same hon. Members are proposing a trade union for architects. Take the proposals contained in Clause 8 which deals with the Discipline Committee. It says: The council may (subject in the case of persons removed from the register under the immediately preceding Section to the approval of the Discipline Committee) at any time restore to the register any name or entry removed therefrom. We are not told whether this Discipline Committee will act like the General Medical Council. Hon. Members know that they meet in private and when they find that a person is guilty of some offence they can remove him from the register. Such inquiries are held in private, and a person may have his name removed from the register for any particular reason including professional jealousy. Very often people who are removed from the register are placed in a position in which it is impossible for them to earn a livelihood. The Discipline Committee may remove any man they like and his means of livelihood might be taken away from him.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

Only for an offence against the rules of the profession.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

The worst form of cruelty I know is that of cruelty to children, but even in that case you limit by Statute the sentence that can be passed for that crime. Cruelty to children is punishable either by a short sentence or a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment. The Statute says that a person may be fined for cruelty to children, but, if a man commits some so-called offence against this body, he is going to be punished even worse than by being detained in prison for a week or two, or fined; it is proposed to take from him the right to earn the necessary livelihood for his wife and family. [Interruption.] I cannot see where I am wrong. The most cruel thing that can be done to a man is the thing that is now proposed. The Bill says: For the purpose of holding any inquiry under this Section as to whether any person registered under this Act has been guilty of any conduct disgraceful to him in a professional respect. What does that mean? The Medical Council do things which possibly are in many respects right, but, on the question of the professional point of view, a man may have wrong associations—morally wrong associations, say in the Divorce Court. Under this Bill as it is now worded, a man who has been divorced might lose his position. There is nothing to hinder that. That has happened already under the Medical Council, and there is nothing to hinder its being construed as wrong professional conduct, because the words "professional respect" might mean anything. No doubt it might be an excellent thing for us to establish a very high code of moral conduct for others, but that has nothing to do with architecture. It might be that an architect drank too much, and it might even be possible that the best architect might have been better if he had drunk more. What does "professional conduct" mean? It might be construed in the interests of some competitor who sees the work being taken from him, or some group who see another man taking a job from them because he is clever. They might come along and frame up some sort of charge that he was drinking too much, and, therefore, committing an offence against professional conduct. Then whom do they elect to try him? Possibly their own friends. The Bill says: at which inquiry such person shall be entitled to be heard. I am surprised at the graciousness shown on this point; I advise the promoters of the Bill to reconsider their position. He is entitled to be heard, and that, at any rate, is a concession. Then it says: There shall be appointed annually a committee to be called the 'Discipline Committee' consisting of eight members. May I point out also that he is not allowed to be represented by counsel; he cannot bring his lawyer; all that he is entitled to is to be heard? Being heard may mean little or it may mean much, but, according to the Bill, he is only entitled to be heard. Why should not a man, if he is being tried for his life, get at least the right that a Law Court would give him—the right to bring counsel, the right to be properly defended? Here is a man who is going to be deprived of the right to earn his livelihood, and he himself is only to be heard: he is to have no right to bring any person with him. Who is to compose the Discipline Committee? There is one member appointed by the Commissioner of His Majesty's Works and Public Buildings, one by the Minister of Health, one by the president of the Law Society, one by the Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, and one by the Ulster Society of Architects. Where is the Welsh member? What crime has poor Wales committed? Wales produces a magician who can cure unemployment in a year. Why has it not one representative on this body? There is this other peculiar thing, that the Bill is not to apply to Northern Ireland. I wonder at the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) sponsoring a. Bill of this kind.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

Clause 21.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

"In the event of this Act being so extended to Northern Ireland"—

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

They will have representation.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Whether it applies to Northern Ireland or not, they are to have a representative, while Wales has not got one at all. I am sure the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Skelton) has a legal mind. I am certain he could not have taken his part at the bar of Scotland without understanding it. Why should not the man who is described as the Pooh Bah of politics have representation? The Secretary for Scotland controls public health, prisons, and every service in Scotland. Why should he not have this added one?

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

There is representation for the Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

That is the kind of interruption one likes to get, because it is seeking after truth, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman is mistaken. It is the Incorporation of Architects. I said the Secretary of State for Scotland. I want him to be placed in an equivalent position to the Minister of Health in England. Why should Scotland be let down?

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

Give me a chance of speaking for Scotland.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I will see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman gets every chance. At the moment I am asking why Scotland should be placed in an inferior position, not only to the Minister of Health but to the First Commissioner of Works. What experience has he more than the Secretary of State for Scotland? Is it that the person who fills that Cabinet post is a more intelligent man than the Secretary of State for Scotland? It may be, and it may be not. The President of the Law Society has also a chance in this matter, and there is one member to be appointed by the Ulster Society of Architects. The council may convene a meeting of the disciplinary committee from time to time as may be necessary in order to hold these inquiries. Now under the law it has been held that in the case of trade unions the person so summoned must have a certain period of notice of what he is to be summoned for, and the indictment must be stated in full detail, showing the alleged offence. Further, the persons accusing him must give their names and the man must know who are his prosecutors. Here we have this position that, under the Bill, a man is to be hauled up and possibly his livelihood taken from him, but he is not to know who is the libeller of his character. Will the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) show me—

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

I will, if you give me a chance.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Will he show me the Clause which gives a right to a person who is to be hauled before the committee to know who his prosecutor is? Has a man the right to have the indictment placed before him so that he may know what is his alleged crime? I cannot find any such provisions, and the fact that the hon. Member is silent shows it does not give him these rights. Look at a man's position. He may have a charge of this kind against him. Even a criminal must be tried within a specified time limit, but under this Bill whenever the disciplinary committee decide it, they may hold a charge over a man for one, two or three years. We have in this country bodies which have done useful work but which are not represented. Why should the building trade unions be left out, and why is the general council of the Trade Union Congress not included? Nobody has done more than the co-operative movement, and why should not that body be represented? Instead of that, we have it deliberately narrowed down.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

The hon. Member has asked me several questions, and there are only four or five minutes left in which I can answer them. If he is asking me questions, the least he can do is to allow me to reply.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I have a right to speak, with all due deference to the hon. and gallant Member, who has not yet been appointed Speaker of the House. I have not yet exhausted my right to speak.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

But you ask me questions.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

You will have another day. There will be a number of days before May, because after May you are not likely to be here. I see the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Couper) sitting beside the hon. Member. He, too, no doubt, has to do with a conspiracy on another Measure of this kind.

Photo of Mr James Couper Mr James Couper , Glasgow Maryhill

On a point of Order. Is it right for the hon. Member to jump from one subject to address you, Mr. Speaker, on another, when I have no opportunity of replying?

Photo of Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy Lieut-General Edward Fitzroy , Daventry

I think the hon. Member will have an opportunity of replying on another occasion.

Captain CROOKSHANK:

Before the hon. Member for Gorbals leaves the point about co-operative societies, will he read to us Clause 18 and see whether that would apply?

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

At the moment the point with which I am dealing is so important that I must address myself to it. I am one of those persons who believe that if a man has to be tried for any-kind of offence he should be tried before a legal tribunal. I would prefer to be tried by the Sheriff in Scotland and by justices in England.

Photo of Mr James Couper Mr James Couper , Glasgow Maryhill

Has that anything to do with the subject before the House? The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has departed to another subject.

Photo of Mr James Maxton Mr James Maxton , Glasgow Bridgeton

On a point of Order. The hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Mr. Couper) has accused me of making certain statements and I have not taken part in the Debate at all.

Photo of Mr James Couper Mr James Couper , Glasgow Maryhill

I meant the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan).

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

I hope that that will be the last occasion on which my constituency will be confused with another constituency. Gorbals is Gorbals. The point I wish to make is, why should not a man have an appeal to the High Court?

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

Read the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

The hon. Member is frightened to allow me to reply to the statements he has made.

HON. MEMBERS:

Withdraw.

Lieut.-Colonel MOORE:

But it is true.

Photo of Mr George Buchanan Mr George Buchanan , Glasgow Gorbals

Hon. Members on the other side know me. I have plenty of faults but there is one thing of which I cannot be accused, and that is fear. [Interruption.] An hon. Member has asked me about Clause 18. I think the House ought to be made aware of what Clause 18 means: Nothing in this Act shall prevent a body corporate, firm or partnership from carrying on the professional business of a Registered Architect.

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Monday, 18th March.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.