OUTGOING ICE president Gordon Masterton last week called on members to consider the long-term strategy behind an ICE/Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) merger, rather than dismissing the idea.
At his fi nal Council meeting as president last Wednesday, Masterton said that he was aware of the objections of many members to a union of the institutions (NCE 12 October).
However, he warned members against rejecting the move before they knew exactly what shape any proposed merger would take.
'There's still a lot of work to be done to understand the risks and benefits [of a merger]. I personally see the institutions coming closer together by continuing with joint activities that add value, ' he said 'We should do this for a healthy period to really explore the added value of coming closer. If that period is fruitful then it seems a natural step to have a joint management board that could still be unpicked if necessary.' Masterton said that he would like to see the institutions finally coming together in 2012 under an umbrella engineering institution that could easily accommodate other professional bodies that might wish to join.
However, this timescale was considered too slow by those Council members in support of the union.
'What you have offered is an enticing fudge, where we delay making a decision for five to seven years, ' said ICE Northern Ireland council representative David Cleland.
A number of regional representatives on Council said their members were broadly against the move, with ICE West Midlands council representative Christina Jackson saying she was concerned that the merger would be a distraction from raising the Institution's profile.
However, Masterton denied this and said IMechE's willingness to join ICE was too good an opportunity to miss.
Newly appointed president Quentin Leiper will now take the debate forward with the new executive board at a meeting on 14 November.
Proposals for the next steps will be presented to Council probably in early 2007.