Clause 109

Legal Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2007.

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Foreign bodies

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

Does the Minister anticipate that, under the clause, it is inevitable and obvious that the Government are likely to advance some provisions in   relation to links between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and Ireland? Clearly, the clause will deal with any foreign jurisdiction. However, although we have separate legal systems within the United Kingdom, there are common interests and practices in the three different legal jurisdictions in terms of professional background, and so on—and in relation to Ireland as well. Perhaps the Minister could shed some light on the implications of the clause, which is reasonable and proper but hints at more than it tells us.

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

In so far as Scotland and Northern Ireland are foreign areas, they would fall under this part of the Bill and the relevant provisions would apply, if necessary, to the different jurisdictions—let us not call them foreign areas—in terms of the legal profession.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Attorney General, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I should like to probe a little bit further. I do not know whether there is current provision along the lines of part 5 in Scottish law or the law relating to Northern Ireland, so I do not know whether there is any arrangement in either of those two places that would make it obvious whether, for example, a company carrying on such business north of the border in the Six Counties would be likely to want to act here.

The other side of the coin is that, presumably, organisations that are mixed in terms of professional background and expertise might be up and running in other countries. Again, I do not know. Can the Minister share anything with us about whether, as of today, ABS-type organisation is possible in the Republic of Ireland, for example? Is that already legitimate and something that happens? Across the water, on the mainland of Europe, the whole system is different, with the exception of the two common-law countries of Cyprus and Malta, so we are not talking as easily and readily about other European Union countries. Are we expecting companies or business structures to practise and offer services in England and Wales and Northern Ireland or Scotland, or the whole of the British Isles? Lots of the companies that have been mentioned do so. The services offered by Tesco and the AA do not stop at Offa’s dyke, Hadrian’s wall or the Irish sea. Will other organisations act across the jurisdictional boundaries?

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

I cannot speak for mainland Europe. There is a different system there, and I am not aware, as yet, of any country that will have something similar to this measure, although a number are keen to see how it works and are looking to us to lead the way.

I mentioned on Second Reading that there were aspects of the provision that would allow changes to be made in the Scottish system, as the Scottish Executive had asked us to provide. I am not aware that the Republic of Ireland has such a system, although it is also interested in seeing how it works. However, there are facilities across the English-Scottish border for organisations to work in both places.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 109 ordered to stand part of the Bill.