Enid Rowlands, new chair of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has said the regulator should “focus on the job in hand” and not waste time worrying about whether there should be a single regulator.
Speaking after a SRA board meeting this week, Ms Rowlands said: “It’s not in our gift to decide if there should be a single regulator or not. For that to happen, layers and layers of regulation would have to be worked through.
“It’s not that we’re for it or against it. Others may need to spend time and effort on this – that is for them to decide.
“Our job is to make sure that what we’re doing, we do wisely. Where we focus our time and energy is on the job in hand. We’ve got enough to do without taking on other people’s work.”
Earlier SRA board members discussed how the regulator should respond to the draft strategy plan launched by the Legal Services Board (LSB) at the end of last year.
At the launch, Sir Michael Pitt, chairman of the LSB, played down previous demands by the organisation for a single regulator, saying it was not “the only answer”.
One SRA board member, Julia Black, said she could not understand from the strategy plan the LSB’s direction of travel on a single regulator “at all”.
In a draft letter to the LSB on the issue, the SRA said: “Our view is that the main focus of the LSB’s work should be to enable frontline regulators to promote a competitive, innovative and open legal services market, particularly through their work to reduce the burden of regulation.
“Exploring options for regulatory change at a time when there is likely to be little government support for new legislation is likely to distract from this priority”.
Another SRA board member Jane Furniss, chair of the equality and diversity group, said she was disappointed that, despite some “human touches on vulnerable consumers”, there was “only one reference to the word diversity” in the strategy plan.
Ms Furniss said that given what was known about the “practical needs” of minority groups, this lack of emphasis should be drawn to the LSB’s attention.
Martin Coleman, chair of the SRA’s education and training committee, said the LSB was broadly right to look at barriers to innovation.
However, Mr Coleman said that regulation should not be accepted “because it has always been there” but because it served purposes in protecting the rule of law, the integrity of the profession and good functioning of the economy.
“It is right to look at unnecessary regulation but there are wider issues to be taken into account,” Mr Coleman said. “There would be no harm in reminding the LSB that regulation serves important public interest purposes.”