Where was I? Ah yes, mistakes. Did you know about the highly fashionable business of making professional conduct complaints? If you are a member of the institute of "putter upperers" or institute of this or that profession, watch out for formal complaints. Architects, engineers, surveyors, builders are at the butt end of the blame game.
Even worse off are the arbitrators and adjudicators. You can imagine how brassed off an unsuccessful party is when it reads a formal, binding and enforceable award that goes against it. In comes, some say, the spite letter, the revenge letter, to the arbitrator's professional body. These bodies used to adopt an attitude of "giving guidance" to the arbitrator in the wake of a complaint. From what I can make out, that's what the RICS does with its arbitrators and adjudicators.
It is a mistake to do what some other arbitrators' clubs do. They carry out a formal inquiry, then set up a tribunal and bring a prosecution. All this for an alleged error in the way the arbitration or adjudication is conducted. The RICS gets out its barge pole until the complainant has used up its civil rights under the Arbitration Act or Construction Act, but not so others.
No adjudicator can do a pukka job if a trade institution is willing to take hold of his reputation, shake it, turn it inside out, upside down and marmelise it!
The big, big mistake is that the very existence of an aggressive system of prosecuting arbitrators and adjudicators piles huge psychological pressure on what ought to be an independent and fearless mind. No arbitrator or adjudicator can do a pukka job if a trade institution is willing to drag him in front of a three-man tribunal, take hold of his reputation, shake it, turn it inside out, upside down and marmelise it! Look, if there is a great big threat hanging over every arbitrator and adjudicator, there is a real risk that this decision-maker fellow will carve up the decision to keep everyone sweet. Indeed, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators has a black letter rule, which says: "An arbitrator shall not permit outside pressure nor fear of criticism to affect his decision." Well said.
The law of the land is great at making mistakes. Parliament really boobed with the Construction Industry Training Board. John Gains, group chief executive of John Mowlem and president of the Construction Confederation, is right to encourage the government, industry and the CITB to establish qualifications for skilled manual jobs (The Daily Telegraph, 23 January). Snag is, John, that huge portions of industry get that damn barge pole out when it comes to the CITB. It is the despised levy that injures the relationship. The board is incessantly criticised by ordinary and genuine builders and subbies for taking or suing for the levy regardless of the individual training needs of each firm.
Industry doesn't blame parliament for its outdated mistaken law, it blames the CITB. But those poor training folk are only applying a daft law. The fact that no training is given or available or invented does not relieve CITB from suing industry for this tax. The fact that there is a wrongheaded distinction between a levy on an employee "bricky" and a levy on a self-employed "bricky", or that no training is available, is all water off a duck's back to the CITB.
Tony Bingham is a barrister and arbitrator specialising in construction. You can write to him at 3 Paper Buildings, Temple, London EC4 7EY, or email him on email@example.com.