Alberto Costa is perhaps Obiter’s favourite MP. The member for South Leicestershire, a solicitor qualified in both Scotland and England and Wales, displays far too much knowledge of the legal world to be a contender for lord chancellor, but he is making his mark on the justice select committee. Woe betide any witness who hasn’t done their homework.
Poor Wanda Goldwag, chair-designate of the Office for Legal Complaints, may have thought she was in for an easy ride when Costa welcomed her with a boyish smile last week saying ‘You’ve got a very impressive CV, I must say’.
The soft soap soon ran out. ‘Have you ever been regulated yourself by any regulatory body?’ asked Costa. Goldwag was a marketing director at a trust regulated by the ‘financial services people’.
Costa continued: ‘Sorry, when you say yes, do you mean the entity was regulated? Or you as an individual?’
‘No, I wasn’t senior enough.’
Goldwag then remembered she had been chair of an employee benefits business which was a Barclays subsidiary. Was this under FSA rules and its handbook? enquired Costa, scenting blood. Goldwag wasn’t entirely sure, but wanted to ‘absolutely make sure I’m answering this correctly’.
‘So, in fact, you’ve never had to do any regulatory compliance work as an individual?’
With his witness on the ropes, Costa moved in again. ‘Presumably, you have read the rules of the Legal Ombudsman scheme – after all you want to chair the board?’
Goldwag admitted: ‘I have not read every single piece of paperwork.’
‘I’m not asking if you’ve read the paperwork, I’m asking if you’ve read the rules.’ Goldwag confessed she had not.
‘Can I just turn to what was sent to you in the candidate information pack?’ This was a rhetorical question. ‘One of the duties of the chair is to keep under review and propose changes to the rules. You have confirmed to this committee you haven’t read these rules. That is a pity.’
By this time, poor Goldwag must have been hoping her corner would throw in the towel. But Costa landed another haymaker.
‘Do you know how many regulators there are under the Legal Services Act that your organisation polices?’
A pause. Something about the ‘plethora of organisations’.
‘I asked a very specific question Wanda. Do you know how many regulators there are?’
‘I don’t know but I count them all. I know the major ones.’
‘Tell us what the major ones are.’
‘The solicitors, the barristers.’
‘But what are they called? What is the regulatory body for solicitors?’
‘The Solicitors Regulation Authority,’ replied Goldwag, with a furrowed brow.
‘That’s fine. Could you name the other ones?’
‘Erm, no I think my mind’s just gone blank.’
If only she’d written them on the back of her hand.