Oversight of Solicitors

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 31st January 2019.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Whether he has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Justice on reforms to the oversight of solicitors.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I have had regular meetings with the Secretary of State for Justice, in which we have discussed a range of policy matters including regulation of the legal professions. Legal services in England and Wales are independently regulated in accordance with the framework set out in the Legal Services Act 2007. Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which prosecutes solicitors and firms where necessary.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

If the SRA cannot and will not compensate the EcoHouse investors, it is ripe for reform, is it not?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

My right hon. Friend tempts me down a path leading to the SRA’s discretion with regard to compensation. I am grateful to him for raising an important issue that concerns many colleagues in the House. I think it best that we take these matters up not just with the Ministry of Justice, but with the SRA itself.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

May I urge the Solicitor General to do more about solicitors up and down the country who are carrying on their business in a very strange and devious way? I have been talking to representatives of the insurance industry, and I understand that clusters of solicitors are making false claims relating to holiday insurance and whiplash. We know where those dodgy solicitors are, but the current regulation does not seem to be working. What is the Solicitor General going to do about it?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Solicitor-General

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. The Legal Services Board has currently drafted proposed new rules relating to the governance for regulators; the consultation closed last week, and new statutory guidance will be issued. However, I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. Corrupt solicitors not only damage the reputation of the profession but raise insurance premiums, driving smaller firms out of business. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and his point is fully understood here.