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Conveyancing Services

Volume 82: debated on Monday 1 July 1985

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asked the Attorney-General what representations he has received about the likely impact on solicitors' branch offices if banks and building societies are permitted to offer conveyancing services.

The Government have received a number of representations on this matter. Most have suggested that lending institutions would provide unfair competition to independent solicitors, and that the viability of many firms would be jeopardised as a result.

There is growing concern that allowing banks and building societies to carry out conveyancing will result in many solicitors' branch offices, which provide useful services to the community, having to close. How much research did the Government carry out into this proposal?

It has always been apparent that there would have to be the widest possible consultation. That point was made absolutely clear in the written answer given in February last year by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. That consultation was carried out in the greatest possible detail. I think that my hon. Friend knows the results as well as I do.

Is it true that the Government have decided not to proceed with the provisions of the Administration of Justice Bill before the Coopers and Lybrand report is available?

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that banks and building societies do a great job in looking after financial deposits, that they have excellent solicitors working for them, and that they are a great credit to their professions? What is wrong with competition between the banks, building societies and solicitors?

The Government's position is clear. They have a commitment to permit organisations such as banks and building societies to provide conveyancing services and to do so in such a way that the consumer will not be prejudiced by conflicts of interest or anti-competitive practices. We shall honour that commitment.