Bar Council calls for proportionate regulation in response to LSB’s business plan
04 Mar, 2013
The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has called for proportionate and financially responsible regulation in its response to the Legal Services Board’s (LSB) draft business plan for 2013-14.
In its response to the LSB, the Bar Council emphasises the fundamental importance of proper regulation to ensure that the justice system works in the public interest.
However, it has voiced concerns about the costs and scope of the LSB’s plans, which do not seem to take sufficiently into account the cuts that the legal profession currently faces and the increasing financial pressures under which it operates.
These concerns were highlighted by a recent Freedom of Information request, which disclosed that £21,367 was spent on the recent LSB publication which looked into the Cab-rank rule. The Bar Council has serious reservations about this particular piece of research, the need for which is not clear. There is particular concern that so much is being spent on research that the Bar Council believes is of questionable quality and which the LSB itself indicates will not result in any sort of consultation.
Maura McGowan QC (pictured), Chairman of the Bar, said: “Nobody can question the importance of proper regulation. However, at a time when most Government departments have to reduce their expenditure, the oversight regulator does not appear to feel the same pressures. We must seek to ensure that the profession is not unnecessarily burdened by the weight and cost of regulation. It is widely recognised in Government that small businesses need to be free from excessive red tape. As a profession of small businesses, this should also be true of the way in which the Bar is regulated.
“The LSB has achieved a great deal since its formation, for which it should be commended. But over the coming year, it ought to focus on its core duties of regulatory supervision and avoid mission creep and duplication of what is already being done by front-line regulators.
“The Cab-rank rule report was just one example of this worrying trend. If the driver was better to inform the LSB itself of the background and application of this rule, it must be said that there is a wealth of knowledge, expertise and material at the Bar Standards Board, as front-line regulator, which arguably should have been accessed before incurring new costs which have led nowhere.”