Society calls for delay to legal aid bill
The Law Society today called on the government to delay passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, after Jonathan Djanogly was stripped of responsibility for regulating claims management companies.
The justice minister remains in charge of steering the controversial legislation through the Commons, but has asked not to be involved with the Claims Management Regulation Unit 'to avoid any possible distraction' from the reforms.
The move follows an inquiry by cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell into reports that the minister and his family have interests in insurance and claims management companies that could benefit from the LASPO reforms.
The review found Djanogly had acted in the public interest and declared there was no conflict of interest between his financial affairs and ministerial role.
The Society welcomed the transfer of responsibility for claims management regulation to justice secretary Kenneth Clarke. But it called for a pause to the legislation, stressing that it affects claims management companies and the insurance sector - 'the very financial interests identified in the cabinet secretary’s report’.
Chief executive Desmond Hudson said: 'It is important that political noise concerning the minister’s perceived potential conflicts of interest should not distract attention from the vitally important task of improving the bill.’
Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter had written to the cabinet secretary listing Djanogly’s interests, which included shareholdings in six financial services companies and a minority stake in The Djanogly Family LLP, a member of Lloyd’s.
The letter also stated that the minister’s brother-in-law owns two claims management companies which are regulated by the Ministry of Justice, Going Legal and Legal Link Introductory Services.
Slaughter backed Chancery Lane’s appeal for a pause in the legislation until the matter was closed.
He said: 'The cabinet secretary has made it clear that there were issues with the minister's responsibilities.
'However, there are still serious questions to be answered on both the formation of policies and conflicts that still exist.'