The Ministry of Justice has confirmed it is not intending to change the structure of legal services regulation – dealing a blow to those who might be agitating for reform.
Justice minister Alex Chalk MP confirmed in a written parliamentary answer this week that the government has ‘no plans’ to review the Legal Services Act 2007, which created the current framework of regulators.
His statement came in response to a question from Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker, who asked if there were any plans to look again at the act and the Legal Services Board’s oversight of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and other bodies.
Chalk said the performance of arm’s length bodies such as the LSB are regularly reviewed by the MoJ. A review in 2017 found the LSB was ‘generally effective’ both in promoting the regulatory objectives of the Legal Services Act and in delivering its functions.
Few commentators would have expected an overhaul of the act, which created the SRA and other frontline regulators, as well as a complaints handling service and Legal Services Consumer Panel.
But the apparent unwillingness to even review the measure comes at a time when commentators have been vocal in calling for change. The Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation, led by UCL’s honorary professor Stephen Mayson, is expected to produce its final report in June after almost two years and three working papers. That report is set to be delivered to the Ministry of Justice, but it remains to be seen whether ministers will pay any attention to it.
A 102-page interim review last September proposed an alternative regime under which all legal services would be regulated but lawyers subject to different requirements depending on the work they do.
Mayson said the system created by the Legal Services Act 2007 was ‘insufficiently flexible to apply targeted, proportionate, risk-based and consistent regulation to reflect differences across legal services areas and across time’.
Former SRA executive director Crispin Passmore said earlier this month that the time had come for a single regulator to liberalise the market and extend consumer protection.
Writing on his website, Passmore said: ‘It is a good time to ask if the current regulatory infrastructure is fit for purpose, or if that regulation is doing more harm than good. In fact, it is overdue.
‘Despite significant reforms and substantial progress, we remain stuck with an inflexible system built on nothing more than history.’