The Bar Council has batted away any idea of the Bar Standards Board becoming independent after MPs investigating regulation of the legal professions raised the issue in a letter to the lord chancellor.

After reviewing the ‘complex regulatory landscape’, House of Commons justice select committee chair Sir Bob Neill told Alex Chalk that the BSB ‘should consider whether greater institutional independence could also help to facilitate improvements in its effectiveness as a regulator’.

However, in a letter to Neill this week, Bar Council chief executive Malcolm Cree CBE said the BSB cannot seek legal separation without the agreement of the approved regulator, which is the Bar Council.

Cree said legal separation would be costly to set up and operate, create unnecessary problems with access to data, and a small profession needed close relations between the representative and regulatory functions.

Cree said: ‘There are different models by which the structure of regulation in the act can be met: the GCB [General Council of the Bar] has chosen the present model and it does not wish to change it. This is a decision of the approved regulator on a high-level policy issue, and which has not been delegated to the BSB.

‘Furthermore, the GCB does not think that this is an appropriate time to consider a structural change that would inevitably absorb considerable management time, when the BSB has more pressing problems in relation to its performance of conduct investigations and authorisations to practice to address, as highlighted by the recent review by Fieldfisher of BSB enforcement processes, which the BSB commissioned and has published.

'I would be grateful if a correction could be made to this reference to reflect the fact that the General Council of the Bar is the approved regulator, and therefore any future consideration of greater institutional independence for the BSB, is not a matter for the BSB, but for the General Council of the Bar.'


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