Lord chancellor rejects accountants’ bid to regulate legal services

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Sep 22, 2017
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David Lidington’s decision goes against a recommendation from the Legal Services Board

Lauren Hurley/PA

One of the country’s biggest accountancy bodies has failed in its bid to become a regulator of reserved legal activities including advocacy.

David Lidington, the lord chancellor, rejected the application from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He agreed with the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who said it was too early to grant licensing rights when the accountancy body had “no immediate intention or ability to offer qualifications or individual authorisation” for rights of audience or the conduct of litigation.

The rejection flew in the face of the legal profession’s overall regulator, the Legal Services Board, which recommended in June that the application be approved.

The institute said in a statement: “We are very disappointed at the lord chancellor’s unprecedented decision and struggle to understand the basis on which he has reached it.”

It added that the LSB had “encouraged our application” and that Lidington’s decision “cuts across the recommendations of the Competition and Markets Authority who, in its market study in 2016, had found that competition in legal services for individual consumers and small businesses was not working well and had indicated their support for the application”.

The institute claimed that the “lord chancellor and the Ministry of Justice have not seized this opportunity to liberalise and regulate the market for legal services in England and Wales, to encourage more competition and to create better options for the consumer.

“We now need to study the detail contained in the lord chancellor’s decision notice to determine our next steps.”

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