Clause 15

Compensation Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 27th June 2006.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I beg to move amendment No. 39, in clause 15, page 9, line 17, at end insert—

‘(1A) The preceding provisions of this Act, other than sections 1 and 2, shall cease to have effect on 1st January 2012 or upon the entry into force of the Legal Services Act 2007, whichever is the earlier.'.

This is the last flourish from the Liberal Democrat Benches. The amendment would add another subsection between subsections (1) and (2) in clause 15. It is consistent with what the Minister kindly attributed to me as an objective—to ensure that we do not end up with more law than we need, with people running about looking in “Halsbury’s Laws” or at statutes, cross-referring and cross-relating them.

I want the Bill to become subject to a sunset provision so that it disappears and is incorporated into the draft Legal Services Bill when that becomes an Act. Rather than having two pieces of legislation that regulate claims made through a claims firm and through lawyers, anyone who is interested can go to one piece of legislation. The same goes for government. That is a justified position because the draft Legal Services Bill is being considered by Parliament literally as we speak.

I hope that the Minister will be positive about that. Parliament should not pass legislation that will, or is presumed to, go on forever, when there are other pieces of legislation in which it could reasonably be dovetailed. All the provisions in part 2 will not only be in parallel with those governed by the Legal Services Bill, but are likely to be governed by the same regulator, as we are told by the Minister. That is important. It would be a nonsense if we were to end up with one regulator governing the things that are regulated by two different Acts of Parliament that are passed within 12 months of each other.

I hope the Minister will be sympathetic to the amendment. I am happy to say that I am not bothered about pressing it to a Division, but I will take drafting suggestions between now and our deliberations on Report on anything that might improve it if it is inadequate. However, the purpose is to ensure that part 2 ends up in the right place, with similar legislation. That would leave earlier aspects of the Bill which were on a different issue—we spoke about them at length—to stand in a logical place. I hope that, in due course, we might be able to put them somewhere else, too. If I have an excellent idea as to where they could go tidily, I might come up with that on Report.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs

I am sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman is trying to achieve. I agree that it is better for the regulator to be a member of the family regulating legal and other services. We are considering carefully how best to pave the way to that type of integration.

The draft Legal Services Bill may or may not be enacted in 2007. It is because of the uncertainty about the changing shape of the market and the number of companies that will need to be regulated that we want to keep our options open to retain maximum flexibility in targeting and giving proportionate regulation. It is also not necessary to put a time limit on the operation of the legislation. I am not in favour of adding further provisions to the Bill unless they are absolutely necessary.

Even if the legal services provision is delayed, I do not want to leave consumers with a regulatory mechanism that has a sunset provision hanging over it. I would be concerned about them being left with a terminating regime and no protection if the Parliament of the day was busy doing something else. On that basis, I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the amendment.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I will happily reflect on it. May I just add that the amendment was drafted after taking technical advice from the Clerks on what might be acceptable in technical terms?

It being Seven o’clock,The Chairmanproceeded, pursuant to Standing Order 83D and the Order of the Committee [20 June], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question negatived.

The Chairman then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at that time.

Clauses 15 and 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.