Legal Services Bill [Lords]
Bridget Prentice (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Lewisham East, Labour)
I understand entirely why my hon. Friend has tabled the amendment. It is to ensure that the board is able to regulate effectively. However, I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley. The amendment is disproportionate and, more importantly, not compliant with the European convention on human rights. I obviously cannot accept an amendment that is not ECHR compliant. On that basis alone, I will have to ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his amendment. It is right that the magnitude of power that he seeks here is the subject of judicial scrutiny. It would be entirely inappropriate to leave the exercise of a High Court power to the discretion of the board. The power here pre-empts the courts in a way that would allow that.
On that basis, I am afraid that I cannot accept my hon. Friend’s amendment. Also, I would suggest to him gently that the term “exceptional circumstances” is not clear enough for statute. It leaves too much open to interpretation. I do not think that it is clear enough to guarantee that the rights of the approved regulator would be protected, either under articles 6 or 8 of the European convention. On that basis, I would ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his amendments.