Government rules out major reform to legal regulation
Vara: no consensus
There is to be no fundamental rethink of the regulatory regime for the legal profession, the Ministry of Justice announced today.
Issuing the long-awaited response to last year’s call for evidence, which closed on 2 September, minister Shailesh Vara said no ideas emerged that would reduce the regulatory burden on lawyers without requiring primary legislation.
In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Vara said 71 responses to the call for evidence were received. These ranged from calls to scrap the Legal Services Board to introducing a single regulator for the entire profession.
“We concluded that there was no consensus on the longer term vision for regulation,” he said. “In addition, we found that the majority of responses focused on the structure of the regulatory landscape, rather than on the detail of particular burdens that could be removed.
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“Due to the detailed legislative framework and independence of legal regulation from government, the call for evidence did not reveal any options for government to reduce regulatory burdens on legal service practitioners, or to simplify the regulatory framework, that did not entail changes to primary legislation.
“In light of the above, the government has decided not to take forward any changes to the statutory framework at this time.”
He also specifically ruled out any change to the list of reserved legal activities, despite “noting that a number of responses highlighted the inconsistency between reserved activities and other legal services which are not regulated”.
Instead, he put the onus on the profession’s regulators to act: “We intend to impress upon the regulators the need to continue, and accelerate, their efforts to reduce unnecessary burdens on providers, including unnecessary barriers to entry, as rapidly as possible and to make clear progress in this over the coming months.
“We will therefore write to the Legal Services Board, the approved regulators and regulators, expressing this strong desire to quickly take forward work to reduce regulatory burdens for legal service practitioners…
“We will continue to investigate whether changes to the statutory framework are required to simplify the landscape, in the context of the progress made by the regulators in reducing burdens on practitioners.”
Mr Vara said the ministry will also need to consider whether changes are needed in response to the report by Sir Bill Jeffrey on the provision of independent criminal advocacy services.
He concluded: “Any major changes to the architecture for legal services regulation will require primary legislation, preceded by further significant consideration, and consultation, before there is a definite move away from the current structure.”
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