Clause 104

Part of Legal Services Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 21st June 2007.

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Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice 2:00 pm, 21st June 2007

I hope that I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the SRA’s position is as he outlined his understanding of it, thereby giving both him and the SRA some reassurance. The amendments are intended to clarify whether the trumping effect of the rules made under part 5, over existing rules applicable to solicitors and licensed conveyancers, will operate only where those professionals are working in bodies regulated by authorities other than the Law Society and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, and to determine whether those rules do not attempt to alter the position of solicitors and licensed conveyancers working in firms regulated by other authorities.

I understand the underlying objective, which is, as the hon. Gentleman said, to avoid duplication through applying two different sets of accounts rules to ABS and existing practices. I appreciate the rationale behind that. Like the hon. Gentleman, I want to facilitate efficiency where possible, and clause 104 is consistent with that; it is intended to operate only to resolve situations where rules conflict, putting a solicitor or licensed conveyancer in a difficult position. I presume that, where the Law Society is the licensing authority for a body, its rules would not create a conflict for a solicitor within that body, and that the same would be true for the CLC and licensed conveyancers. I am happy to consider whether we need to make any further provision, just to reinforce that conflict-resolution point.

I assure the Committee that both the Law Society and the CLC will be able to apply for orders under schedule 22 or to seek board recommendations under clause 69 for amendments to their existing powers, so long as that does not conflict with the requirements of part 5. I cannot go any further than that at the moment and speculate about what the board might take into account in its recommendations or what the Lord Chancellor might decide. However, I hope that my remarks go some way towards reassuring the hon. Gentleman, the Law Society and the CLC that I understand their position.