Clause 3

Part of Legal Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 7:00 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Justice), Shadow Solicitor General 7:00 pm, 12th June 2007

I thank the Minister for that thoughtful response to the amendments, and I shall go away and have a good read of what she said. My immediate thought is that proportionality is not simply a word that can be defined on the spot. It is an idea, and ideas are open to interpretation. If someone is given an idea about putting something together, they are given instructions on how to go about doing so. That is the sort of principle that we intended to follow. We are not dictating how the job should be done, but merely suggesting guidelines to be considered when performing it. If board members each use different criteria to judge proportionality, there could be a problem. Our intention is to ensure that a consistent approach is taken by each regulator. The Minister confirmed that she does not believe that the one-size-fits-all approach is appropriate, which is important. If she has thought about whether guidance could be a more appropriate way to define what is meant by proportionality in the context of legal services, I should be grateful for her views.

The Minister does not like the words “light touch”, but patent and trade mark attorneys, for example, like light-touch regulation. They believe that they have a light- touch regulatory existence at the moment, which allows them to compete effectively at an international level, so they have concerns about the proposal. The minimum regulatory cost to members is a registration fee for each register of about £70 a year. Costings suggest that the combination of a regulatory levy and operating costs as an approved regulator are likely to increase the annual regulatory cost to £750 to £1,000 a head, assuming that the number of registered attorneys remains at current levels, and those figures make no  provision for set-up costs. For regulators, the concept of a light touch is a real one, as it will hit them in their pockets, so I hope that the Minister will consider that further and comment on whether guidance is appropriate.