All the legal services regulators should under a new duty to “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth”, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has said.
A clause in the Deregulation Bill, currently working its way through parliament, would impose the new duty on non-economic regulators. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has previously proposed that the duty should only apply to the Legal Services Board (LSB) and SRA.
In response to a BIS consultation, the SRA said that all legal services regulators should be included in the scope of the new duty; to “name some and not others would be inconsistent”.
The regulator said it would welcome further details on how the monitoring of the duty would be undertaken, how the government would implement the measure and which departments would be responsible.
“This is important, as while the SRA continues to build quality data and research on the businesses and individuals it regulates, it is difficult to produce meaningful analysis of the impact that policies and operations have directly on economic growth.”
The SRA said that, to “avoid confusion”, the independent regulatory bodies, such as itself and the Bar Standards Board (BSB), should be named as responsible for the new duty, and not the ‘approved regulators’, such as the Law Society or the General Council of the Bar.
The SRA also called for all the legal services regulators to appoint small business appeals champions.
Responding to an earlier BIS consultation on the issue last year, Chris Kenny, former chief executive of the LSB, argued that if it wanted to appoint ‘small business appeals champions’ for legal services, it should appoint them to the front-line regulators rather than the super-regulator.
The SRA said small business champions could deliver “simpler, more effective, more transparent, less costly and better understood series of processes” by which firms were able to question decisions and behaviour.
“The SRA is already exploring ways for small firms to be better able to question decisions and processes, and we are interested in the proposed champions having a wider remit, to proactively support and challenge our small firm initiatives.”
The regulator added that it would welcome a meeting with BIS to consider “how the role is likely to work in practice”, since it would be “businesses that ultimately bear the cost of such an appointment and it therefore needs to be clear what additional value a small business champion will provide above existing structures.”
The Deregulation Bill’s third reading in the House of Lords will take place early next month.