If you hear strange noises emanating from the Legal Services Board this week, it may be that teeth are still being gnashed.
Certainly the ‘super regulator’ may well have been seething at having its homework given a ‘U’ by the lord chancellor David Lidington last week.
Lidington turned down an application from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to regulate all reserved legal activities. The lord chancellor was unimpressed at the ICAEW’s position as both regulator and representative body, questioned whether it could act independently and suggested accountants might not be best placed to conduct civil or criminal litigation.
Which was all rather embarrassing for the LSB, which is required to vet such applications and which had given the ICAEW its backing.
The LSB said the ICAEW had the tools in place to restrict the scope of accountants’ activities, with experience of ‘policing the regulatory boundary’ and having ‘extensive understanding of the tax sector’.
Intriguingly, the LSB seemed to rely on a ‘wait and see’ approach, saying the policing of boundaries ‘will only be tested if ICAEW accredited firms are permitted to offer these services’.
So did the LSB back up its stance in its response to Lidington? Hardly. Interim chair Dr Helen Phillips offered just 84 words essentially saying the final decision for the lord chancellor was ‘his alone to make’.
‘Our recommendation to the Lord Chancellor reflected our assessment of ICAEW application and the criteria which apply to such designations,’ she added. ‘The Legal Services Board carried out its statutory role, which was to assess the application in accordance with what is laid out in the [Legal Services] Act.’