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Legal Services (Red Tape Challenge)

Volume 574: debated on Monday 27 January 2014

The Ministry of Justice wishes to implement its policies in the most effective way, ensuring that the rules that oversee the justice system are proportionate and effective. However, it is always important that we balance this aim and ensure we do not place unnecessary burdens on business or hamper economic growth.

In May 2012, the Ministry of Justice launched the legal services theme of the red tape challenge to help us examine where we could improve regulation. We sought views from a broad range of stakeholders and the public on the governance of legal services and the regulation that underpins our system of justice. We asked whether these regulations were still necessary or whether they could be improved so that the overall system is easier to understand and navigate.

I would like to inform the House that the Government are today announcing the outcome of the legal services red tape challenge. Of the 189 substantive instruments considered, we propose to scrap or improve 69 statutory instruments: a significant number of these changes will create real benefits for business, the public or the taxpayer.

Through these planned and ongoing reforms we will simplify the legislation around bailiffs, setting out clearly what bailiffs can do under what circumstances, and the fees that they can charge, giving both business and the public clearer guidance on how bailiffs can behave. The rules that regulate claims management companies have been improved by introducing a ban on paying or receiving referral fees in personal injury cases and offering cash incentives or similar benefits to consumers to make claims. We have also introduced mandatory requirements for written and signed contracts with clients before any fees can be taken by those companies. These changes will help strengthen existing action to drive out poor practices, better protect consumers and go some way to addressing the compensation culture.

We will work with the Land Registry to simplify the process of searching for local land charges by making the legislative changes necessary to allow the Land Registry to have sole responsibility for maintaining a local land charges register, and for supplying local search results. This should make searching simpler as there will be one register of local land charges, rather than separate registers with different local authorities as at present. It will also enable the Land Registry to standardise the price of searches, turnaround times and the format of searches and will mark a significant step towards making the Land Registry a “one-stop shop” for property searches by April 2015. The Land Registry will continue to make the necessary changes to move towards “digital by default”, including enabling all applications to update/change the Land Register to be made electronically, should people wish to do so, by March 2014.[Official Report, 24 March 2014, Vol. 578, c. 2 MC.]

Addressing the concerns raised through the red tape challenge and the legal services review, the Justice Secretary will take forward further steps on legal services regulation in the coming months.

Many of these measures are already being taken forward and some have been implemented already. We hope to make the remaining changes by the end of this Parliament.