Motion to Consider
That the Grand Committee do consider the Legal Services Act 2007 (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) (Modification of Functions) Order 2014.
Relevant document: 9th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
My Lords, I shall also speak to the draft Legal Services Act 2007 (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) (Modification of Functions) Order 2014, the draft Legal Services Act 2007 (the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys) (Modification of Functions) Order 2014 and the draft Referral Fees (Regulators and Regulated Persons) Regulations 2014.
The first order—for CILEx, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives—is made under Section 69 of the 2007 Act and modifies the functions of CILEx. CILEx is currently an approved regulator under the Legal Services Act 2007 for the following reserved legal activities: probate activities, the exercise of a right of audience, reserved instrument activities, the administration of oaths and the conduct of litigation. If made, this order will enable CILEx to operate more effectively by modifying its powers to make regulatory arrangements.
Specifically, the order will enable CILEx to make compensation arrangements as defined in the 2007 Act and allow it to make rules authorising it to establish and maintain a compensation fund, requiring CILEx-authorised entities to contribute to it. The compensation fund will protect clients of CILEx-authorised entities who suffer loss in the event of dishonesty or a failure to account.
In addition, this order modifies the provisions of Schedule 14 to the 2007 Act so that the intervention powers there are available to CILEx in its capacity as an approved regulator. For example, these powers would enable CILEx to seek an order from the High Court to intervene into an entity, to enter its premises and seize documents or property. This power will both protect consumers and provide the public with continued assurance that there are mechanisms in place to protect and safeguard their interests.
Taken together, the increased safeguards put in place by this order will enable CILEx to authorise and regulate entities for the first time. This will enable individuals who have been assessed by CILEx as sufficiently competent to carry on one of the reserved legal activities for which CILEx is designated to set up independent businesses for that reserved legal activity. The LSB conducted a public consultation between 23 June and 21 July 2014. No responses were received. This order follows a recent order designating CILEx as an approved regulator for reserved instrument activities and probate activities, bringing the total number of reserved legal activities it can regulate to five.
The Section 69 order for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales modifies the functions of the institute in two main ways. First, it enables the institute to make regulations or rules providing for appeals to the First-tier Tribunal against its decisions as an approved regulator and licensing authority. Secondly, and similarly to the CILEx Section 69 order, this order modifies the provisions of Schedule 14 of the 2007 Act so that they apply to the institute in its capacity as an approved regulator. This gives the institute the same intervention powers as an approved regulator that it already has automatically as a licensing authority. This order follows the two orders, made in July and August this year, designating the institute as an approved regulator and licensing authority for probate activities.
This Section 69 order, dealing with appeals and intervention powers, now comes before the House following a public consultation by the Legal Services Board. No responses were received to the consultation. The recent designation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales as an approved regulator and licensing authority for probate activities has been an important step. The institute’s entry to this sector will help to contribute to the growth of the legal services market and bring further innovations, leading to benefits to consumers of legal services.
The order will ensure that the institute’s decisions as both an approved regulator and a licensing authority can be appealed to the First-tier Tribunal, which will help to ensure consistency of regulation. The order will also provide the institute with the same intervention powers as an approved regulator that it already has as a licensing authority, similarly ensuring consistency of regulation.
With regard to the Section 69 order for the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, CIPA and ITMA are both approved regulators under the Legal Services Act 2007 for the following reserved legal activities: the exercise of a right of audience, the conduct of litigation, the administration of oaths and reserved instrument activities. CIPA and ITMA have applied to be designated as licensing authorities in relation to the same reserved activities for which they are approved regulators.
The order essentially does two things. First, it harmonises the approach that CIPA and ITMA take in regulating all registrants to undertake patent and trade mark work, whether they are registered bodies—that is, non-alternative business structures—or licensed bodies—that is, alternative business structures. It does this by making various provisions to ensure that the regulatory framework for CIPA and ITMA is the same whether they are acting as an approved regulator or as a licensing authority. Secondly, the order enables CIPA and ITMA to make rules or regulations providing for appeals to the First-tier Tribunal or High Court against decisions made by CIPA and ITMA as an approved regulator and, in certain circumstances, as a licensing authority.
CIPA and ITMA are not yet licensing authorities, but they applied in May 2013 to the Legal Services Board to be designated as licensing authorities in relation to the same four reserved activities for which they are already approved regulators. Following a recommendation from the LSB to the Lord Chancellor, a decision in principle to make such a designation order was made by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on 5 March. The order was laid in Parliament on 20 November. The present Section 69 order modifying the functions of CIPA and ITMA comes before the House following a public consultation by the LSB. No responses were received.
The order puts in place a number of measures to harmonise the approach that CIPA and ITMA take in regulating all registrants to undertake patent and trade mark work, whether they are acting as approved regulators or, eventually, as licensing authorities. This will help to ensure consistency of regulation and will pave the way for the continued widening of the legal services market.
With regard to the CILEx referral fee ban order, the background is that on 1 April 2013 a ban was introduced on the payment and receipt of referral fees in personal injury cases by “regulated persons”. The ban was introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which defines “regulated persons” as solicitors, barristers, claims management companies and insurers. This ban was a response to the concern, highlighted in Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs, that referral fees in personal injury cases contribute to the high costs and volume of personal injury litigation.
As CILEx-regulated practitioners did not fall within the definition of regulated persons at that time, they were not included in those provisions. However, if made, the CILEx Section 69 order being debated here today will bring CILEx-regulated practitioners who are authorised to conduct litigation within the scope of the referral fee ban. Without formally extending the ban to them, they will be able to pay and receive referral fees. This would compromise consumer protection and would give them an unfair commercial advantage over other practitioners in the field.
This order therefore adds CILEx to the list of regulators for the purposes of the ban and specifies the group of practitioners to whom it will be applied. In so doing, it fulfils one of the major objectives of statutory regulation—namely, to protect and promote the public and consumer interest. It will also create a level playing field in relation to other regulated legal service providers.
In conclusion, these orders enable those bodies to strengthen their regulatory powers, leading to greater consistency and greater protection for consumers, and I commend them to the Committee.
My Lords, I rise simply to welcome the first three orders which extend alternative business structures—which, of course, started under the 2007 Act. That change is gradually rolling out and is to be welcomed.
I want to say a particular word of welcome about the first order, on CILEx, because CILEx has gone through part of the process to enable legal executives to carry out reserved or regulated legal activities, which now include litigation, rights of audience, administering oaths, probate and conveyancing. As the Minister suggested, CILEx members are currently not able to set up their own businesses unless they get together with someone else who is regulated by another regulatory body such as the Law Society. In future, however, with this change, CILEx will be able to authorise independent CILEx businesses. That is good for clients. As we know, many local firms, particularly small ones, will not go to a lawyer when they have a legal problem because of the expense. This much broader provision of legal services will therefore be very good. At the moment, only about 12% of small businesses turn to a lawyer even when in difficulties. With this gradual increase in what they can do, as well as a greater availability of CILEx businesses, these specialist firms will be able to offer a service.
I want to say just one other thing. Because of the particular way in which CILEx’s members come up through the institute and become lawyers, CILEx is composed of a far broader mix of people, from a broader range of backgrounds, than is perhaps the case with the traditional lawyer. It has a much more diverse membership in terms of, for example, ethnicity, as one-third of CILEx members are from ethnic minorities; gender, as three-quarters are women; and social background—indeed, 86% did not have parents who went to university, a statistic which is quite different from that applying to some other groups. What is happening with individual lawyers will now also happen with these new businesses. They, too, will be more diverse, and represent the diverse needs of consumers. I therefore thank the Ministry of Justice for getting this through. The Minister indicated that there had not been many responses to the consultation but, as I understand it, that is basically because people were happy with the change. I think that it will be broadly welcomed.
My Lords, the three orders that we are discussing today modify the functions of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys in respect of regulatory matters to the extent necessary to modify their powers under the Legal Services Act 2007, and the one regulation extends the ban on the payment and receipt of referral fees in personal injury cases to include appropriately qualified practitioners who are members of the Charted Institute of Legal Executives.
CILEx is an approved body to award practice rights in the reserved legal activity area and this regulation will be undertaken by ILEX Professional Standards. It also has to have the ability to protect the interests of the public who use the services of its members, and this includes the power both to provide redress in the form of compensation to clients and to be able to intervene into legal practices. The order gives it the required powers to set up a compensation fund and collect the required fees and, secondly, to take appropriate enforcement action to protect the interests of consumers. I agree with my noble friend Lady Hayter of Kentish Town that this is good news for consumers in giving them a wider choice in the marketplace when looking for legal services and in providing the public with proper protection. It is a boost to legal executives seeking to widen the sphere of work that they undertake, particularly unsupervised work, as they can demonstrate that they have proper protections in place.
The order in respect of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales provides for appeals to the First-tier Tribunal against decisions made by the institute as an approved regulator and as a licensing authority. It also changes its arrangements and increases its scope for using intervention powers. This again is a sensible measure, and the Opposition have no issues with what is proposed here. Giving consumers uniform protections and rights is in itself a sensible move and works towards improving the efficiency of the regulatory and protection framework for legal services.
The third order makes changes to the regulatory arrangements in respect of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys acting as approved regulators and, if designated in the future, as licensing authorities. Again, the Opposition have no issue with what is proposed, but I have a few questions for the Minister. In respect of the order relating to CILEx, what work has the Ministry of Justice done to satisfy itself that the Legal Services Board has acted with due diligence in coming forward with this proposal and that CILEx has the range of competences required to undertake these new regulatory powers?
In respect of the order regarding the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, what work has the MoJ done to satisfy itself that this order is appropriate and, again in respect of the third order, what specific work has been undertaken in the MoJ to satisfy itself that these measures are proportionate, they deliver the objectives being sought here and those objectives are right in practice?
I have no issues to raise in respect of the regulation adding CILEx-registered practitioners to those banned from the paying and receipt of referral fees.
My Lords, I am grateful for the contribution to this debate from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who I know broadly welcome all these changes by statutory instrument. I shall deal first with what the noble Baroness said about CILEx. She accurately described this as the next step in rolling out CILEx so that its increased role and activities can be used by more people. She rightly pointed out that many people will go to legal executives rather than spend more money on lawyers. There is increasing confidence in the standard of advice that they are giving. I have been to a number of events of theirs, and it is a profession that is in good health. The noble Baroness is also right to point to the range of diversity among their number. Although my figures do not precisely coincide with hers, as there were some CILEx members who chose not to provide information, I confirm that on the figures that the MoJ has, 74% of CILEx members are women and there is a higher than usual percentage of members from black and minority ethnic backgrounds—certainly not less than 16%, which is encouraging.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked whether the Government were satisfied that CILEx had put effective and appropriate arrangements in place generally for these arrangements. He will appreciate that under the Legal Services Act 2007 the Legal Services Board was set up as a super-regulator. It was his Government who brought in that legislation, and it is not for the Government to regulate the regulator who then regulates the regulator, so we have to be satisfied that the Legal Services Board is in fact doing its job. Of course, as with all arm’s-length bodies, it is regularly reviewed.
The Ministry of Justice analysed each application made to it by the Legal Services Board before the Lord Chancellor agreed to make the specific orders that are before the Committee today. That included looking at the underlying regulatory framework. I can assure the noble Lord that that additional step was taken. The Ministry of Justice has to be satisfied with the overall framework of regulation that exists in relation to all these professions, whether it is legal executives or trade mark and patent attorneys. The Government are satisfied that effective and appropriate arrangements have been made in respect of the regulation and authorisation of CILEx members, and indeed in relation to compliance with the Legal Ombudsman, although the noble Lord did not specifically ask me about that.
The intention, by setting up the compensation fund and giving rights to intervention, is clearly to put such professionals in the same, more established position applying elsewhere and to provide additional security for consumers. That has been done, in so far as one can ever be 100% sure of these things.
Before the Minister sits down, I want to apologise: his figure was right and mine was wrong. The one-third figure refers to new CILEx students, so I got that wrong. His figure of 16% is right. However, up to one-third of new CILEx students are from black and minority ethnic groups.