Clause 135 - Architects: discipline and continuing professional development

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 21st October 2021.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

With this it will be convenient to consider clause 136 stand part.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

Clause 135 relates to the competence of architects. It was developed in response to a proposal in the independent review that advised that the Government and the Architects Registration Board should consider the current and future competence of architects on the register of architects. It provides the ARB with the power to specify the practical experience and training requirements for architects. That will enable the ARB to monitor the competence of all architects on the register. It allows the ARB to determine which practical experience or training should be assessed and how the assessment should take place.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

An architect may appeal to the High Court if they are aggrieved by a decision taken by the Architects Registration Board to remove them from the register for not meeting the new competence requirements, but we will need to consider further how a non-judicial appeal route could be made available for architects to make such challenges in future. The clause sets requirements for the ARB to consult bodies representing architects as well as such other professional and educational bodies as it thinks appropriate. Currently, the Architects Act 1997 does not provide powers for the ARB to scrutinise competence after the initial registration and throughout an architect’s career unless an allegation of unacceptable professional conduct is brought before the ARB. This means that an architect may be practising for a prolonged period without any further proactive regulatory oversight.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Planning) 2:30 pm, 21st October 2021

I am interested to know whether “architect” means the individual named person or the company or practice for which they work, or which they are a member of. There is a very famous architect who is responsible for some iconic buildings and structures; some of those failed, notoriously, but that individual managed to avoid any litigation because of the way he structured his relationship with the building or structure that was constructed. That is a risk, and I wonder whether that has been considered in drawing up this clause.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

I thank the hon. Lady. My understanding is that clause 138 will deal with the point she makes.

To continue with clause 135, this proposal brings the architects’ profession in line with best practice in other professions and gives greater assurance to those procuring and inhabiting buildings. The objective of the clause is to ensure that all registered architects are suitably competent to undertake their work and that their knowledge is up to date.

Clause 136 relates to the list of services for which the Architects Registration Board may charge. Currently, the 1997 Act provides for a small number of services for which the ARB may charge. The costs of all the ARB’s functions are currently met by the annual retention fee, which is charged by the ARB to all registered architects.

However, the ARB offers a number of other services. This clause will allow the Secretary of State to make regulations to expand the list of services for which the ARB may charge a fee on a cost recovery basis, meaning that only those using the services will cover the costs. The aim of this clause is to keep the retention fee low for all of the architects on the register. An example of a potential additional charge would be to charge a fee to international institutions that wish their architectural qualifications to be recognised by the Architects Registration Board in the UK.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 135 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 136 ordered to stand part of the Bill.