Clause 3

Part of Legal Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice) 6:30 pm, 12th June 2007

The amendments stand in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Huntingdon and for Bournemouth, East. I do not know why they do not stand in the name of the birthday boy, but perhaps that can be put right at a later stage.

Amendment No. 206 refers to clause 3, which concerns the legal services board’s duty to promote the regulatory objectives set out in clause 1(1). Clause 3(2) states:

“The Board must, so far as is reasonably practicable, act in a way—

(a) which is compatible with the regulatory objectives, and

(b) which the Board considers most appropriate for the purpose of meeting those objectives.”

If one were to expunge the expression “so far as is reasonably practicable” from that provision, Her Majesty’s Government could get exactly what they want from the measures anyway. Surely the expression unnecessarily qualifies clause 1(1). What is the point of setting out the regulatory objectives in clause 1, if one does not require the board to respect them in clause 3(2)?

If that expression were to be left in that provision, the obligation for the board to act in accordance with the regulatory objectives would be removed in some circumstances. Surely, clause 3(2)(b) fulfils exactly what Her Majesty’s Government ought to want from the provision, thus not only is the expression “so far as is reasonably practicable” unnecessary, but it could, in some circumstances, undermine the objectives set out in clause 1. It represents a possible escape provision that could undermine the force of the objectives set out in clause 1.

Amendment No. 206 is a probing amendment, and I would like the Minister to comment on what I have said. I see that her civil servants are nodding, so I must have made a reasonably cogent point. I am sure that there is an explanation for the situation that I have outlined.

The amendment is grouped with amendment No. 244, which fast forwards us to part 4 of the Bill. We are some way off reaching that part, but amendment No. 244 refers to clause 28, which comes under the heading:

“General duties of approved regulators”.

So, we are moving on to a different part of the Bill. Clause 28(2) states that:

“The approved regulator must, so far as is reasonably practicable, act in a way—

(a) which is compatible with the regulatory objectives, and

(b) which the approved regulator considers most appropriate for the purpose of meeting those objectives.”

Again, we see the expression

“so far as is reasonably practicable”.

I shall not rehearse the arguments in relation to clause 28, but they are similar to those that I have just made on clause 3. The evening is pushing on, and I know that it is important to make some more progress, and on that basis I commend the amendment to the Committee.