The Ministry of Justice has today published its response to the call for evidence on the review of the legal services regulatory framework. A copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Government are committed to better regulation, regulating only when it is appropriate to do so. During 2013 the Ministry of Justice published a call for evidence in which we sought ideas on ways to simplify the legal services regulatory framework and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on the legal services sector. The call for evidence was launched on 5 June 2013 and closed on 2 September 2013.
We asked for concerns with, and ideas for reducing, regulatory burdens and simplifying the legal services regulatory framework, including ideas covering the overall legislative framework, and any specific provisions or aspects within it, while retaining appropriate regulatory oversight. We asked for comments on the interaction between the legislative framework and the detailed rules and regulations of the approved regulators, licensing authorities and the Legal Services Board and Office for Legal Complaints, which are, of course, independent of Government.
A total of 71 responses to the call for evidence were received, mainly from the oversight regulator, approved regulators and their regulatory bodies, consumer bodies, practitioners, legal academics and the judiciary.
Having considered the range of evidence collected through the call for evidence, we concluded that there was no consensus on the longer-term vision for regulation. In addition, we found that the majority of responses focused on the structure of the regulatory landscape, rather than on the detail of particular burdens that could be removed. Due to the detailed legislative framework and independence of legal regulation from Government, the call for evidence did not reveal any options for Government to reduce regulatory burdens on legal service practitioners, or to simplify the regulatory framework, that did not entail changes to primary legislation. In light of the above, the Government have decided not to take forward any changes to the statutory framework at this time.
However, we remain committed to reducing regulatory burdens on practitioners in the legal sector, and promoting innovation, competition and growth in the legal services market. We intend to impress upon the regulators the need to continue, and accelerate, their efforts to reduce unnecessary burdens on providers, including unnecessary barriers to entry, as rapidly as possible and to make clear progress in this over the coming months. We will therefore write to the Legal Services Board, the approved regulators and regulators, expressing this strong desire to quickly take forward work to reduce regulatory burdens for legal service practitioners.
In addition, while noting that a number of responses highlighted the inconsistency between reserved activities and other legal services which are not regulated, we do not propose to extend the scope of regulation to new areas at this time.
We will continue to investigate whether changes to the statutory framework are required to simplify the landscape, in the context of the progress made by the regulators in reducing burdens on practitioners. We will also need to consider whether changes are needed in response to the anticipated independent report by Sir Bill Jeffrey on the provision of independent criminal advocacy services.
Any major changes to the architecture for legal services regulation will require primary legislation, preceded by further significant consideration, and consultation, before there is a definite move away from the current structure.