Need to swear an oath? Soon you can ask an accountant

Gauke: Move will slightly improve access to justice

David Gauke, the Lord Chancellor, has decided to allow the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to regulate the administration of oaths.

Mr Gauke said the move would widen access to justice, improve competition and benefit consumers, “albeit slightly”.

The ICAEW already has the power to regulate probate work. The Legal Services Board (LSB) initially backed the ICAEW’s application to handle all the other reserved legal activities, which it said it would limit to tax-related matters.

However, in 2017, the then Lord Chancellor, David Lidiington, unexpectedly rejected the LSB’s recommendation to legislate to this effect, a decision upheld by the High Court earlier this year.

Lord Justice Leggatt and Mrs Justice Andrews provided the ICAEW with only a crumb of comfort by deciding that Mr Lidington had not properly explained why it should be prevented from regulating the administration of oaths.

They said his decision letter did not explain “why the governance structure which was considered acceptable for the purpose of regulating probate activities, coupled with the enhanced monitoring regime suggested by the LSB, would not be adequate to protect the interests of consumers and the public” if the ICAEW was allowed to regulate administration of oaths.

The court quashed Mr Lidington’s decision regarding the administration of oaths only, saying he should have given the matter “separate consideration”.

In a letter yesterday to Michael Izza, chief executive of the ICAEW, Mr Gauke said he had now done this, and decided to make an order designating the ICAEW as approved regulator and licensing authority for the administration of oaths, which will be “put before Parliament when parliamentary time allows”.

Mr Gauke said he had taken into account the “nature and complexity of the particular reserved legal activity”, noting “the court’s reference to it being ‘straightforward’”, and whether the ICAEW’s proposed governance arrangements were appropriate.

The Lord Chancellor said he had also considered “whether such a designation has the potential to widen access to justice, enhance competition and advance the interests of the consumer” and “concluded that it would, albeit slightly”.

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