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SRA supports move towards independence from Law Society

The Board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority has backed Government proposals to make legal service regulators independent from their representative bodies.

The Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills earlier this week announced plans for a consultation by Spring 2016 on the plan.

Ministers also intend to make it easier for alternative business structures to offer legal services like conveyancing, probate and litigation in England and Wales.

The proposals were part of a 25-page paper including a range of measures aimed cutting red tape and reducing bills for businesses and families.

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Commenting on the announcements, Enid Rowlands, SRA Chair of the Board, said: “In our view, a key requirement for the regulation of any profession or market in the public interest is the confidence of the public. If the regulator does not have public confidence, it cannot do its job. The key to public confidence is independence and public accountability.

"It is impossible to see how a regulator could have the confidence of the public if it is also the body that represents those who are regulated. The public deserves proper independent regulation, and the profession deserves proper representation. But the two functions must be, and must be seen to be, separate.”

Rowlands added: “Modern regulation has to be independent and fully accountable to the public. We welcome the Government’s proposals and are looking forward to working with others as we explore the detail.”

In its response the Law Society warned that the setting of rules and standards for legal services must be independent of government.

Chief executive Catherine Dixon said: “The legal profession must be free to set the standards and rules under which it operates, and also own legal education and training so that standards are led by the people who practise law.

“Enforcement of the rules and standards set by the legal profession, by an independent regulator would also be a further protection of the public and consumer interest.”

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