Clause 55

Legal Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 19th June 2007.

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Provision of information to the Board

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I beg to move amendment No. 253, in clause 55, page 31, line 6, at end insert—

‘(d) shall give a reason and explanation for such notice.’.

The amendment is simple. Subsection (2)(c) states that a notice

“may require any information to be provided, or document to be produced, to the Board or to a person specified in the notice”,

If a person receives the notice, I believe that a reason should be specified for such action. Such a probing amendment was introduced in the other place. We did not consider that it received a sympathetic response, which is why we are re-running it. I should be grateful if the Minister could now look sympathetically at the proposal because it would make clearer what the Government are trying to do and it would be fairer to all concerned if they would accept it.

Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Liberal Democrat, Birmingham, Yardley

We have added our names to the amendment so obviously we support it. Much of the proposal rests on the nature of the relationship between the Legal Services Board and the individual regulator. I agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw that this country has seen several examples of the failure of self-regulation, but the system under the Bill brings in a relationship that warrants being carried out professionally and reasons being given for action that is taken.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

I understand what the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk is trying to achieve with the amendment. My initial reaction is that it is unnecessary because the board already has a duty to have regard to best regulatory practice, including transparency. Any notice that properly follows best regulatory practice would have a reason and an explanation attached to it.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that public law principles require reasons to be given in any event, so I am not hugely convinced that the amendment is necessary. However, I am happy to consider it further on the basis that the principles of transparency are important. Perhaps we can discuss it later to see whether I can convince him that the clause covers all bases, or whether it needs to be amended to make it even clearer.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The Minister has been most sympathetic and understanding. I am grateful for her remarks. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.