PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation

DRAFT EXECUTRY PRACTITIONERS (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 1997

DRAFT INDEPENDENT QUALIFIED CONVEYANCERS (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 1997

Tuesday 28 January 1997

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: SIR MICHAEL SHERSBY

Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, North)

Ashby, Mr. David (North-West Leicestershire)

Bray, Dr. Jeremy (Motherwell, South)

Campbell, Mr. Menzies (Fife, North-East)

Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)

Deva, Mr. Nirj Joseph (Brentford and Isleworth)

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James (Minister of State, Scottish Office)

Evennett, Mr. David (Erith and Crayford)

Galloway, Mr. George (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Key, Mr. Robert (Salisbury)

Macdonald, Mr. Calum (Western Isles)

McFall, Mr. John (Dumbarton)

MacGregor, Mr. John (South Norfolk)

McLoughlin, Mr. Patrick (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)

McMaster, Mr. Gordon (Paisley, South)

Ryder, Mr. Richard (Mid-Norfolk)

Squire, Ms Rachel (Dunfermline, West)

Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, East)

Wray, Mr. Jimmy (Glasgow, Provan)

Mr. F. A. Cranmer,Committee Clerks

Ms S. McGlashan,Committee Clerks

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3 Third Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation Tuesday 28 January 1997

[SIR MICHAEL SHERSBY in the Chair]

Draft Executry Practitioners (Scotland) Regulations 1997

4.30 pm

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Executry Practitioners (Scotland) Regulations 1997.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the Independent Qualified Conveyancers (Scotland) Regulations 1997.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: It gives me great pleasure at long last to be able to lay these draft regulations before the Committee. I am particularly delighted as the Minister responsible for piloting the relevant part of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 through Committee. The Act abolished the monopoly which the solicitor profession had over certain elements of conveyancing and executry services and set up the new professions of qualified conveyancer and executry practitioner, both to increase competition among legal service providers and to enhance customer choice. After the Act was passed, we established the Scottish Conveyancing and Executry Services Board to register qualified conveyancers and executry practitioners and regulate the new professions, and began to prepare the secondary legislation necessary before registration could begin. After about a year, however, we had with great reluctance to take the decision to suspend implementation. There were two reasons for this. First, the housing market was static at that time, which reduced possible opportunities for new practitioners. Secondly, there were difficulties in arranging for adequate customer protection at an appropriate cost. In November 1995, I was delighted to be able to take the decision to begin implementation once more. At that stage, all the indications were that the housing market was stable and the problems with the insurance market were being resolved. The draft regulations before the Committee today were first issued for consultation in December 1995. As a result of the consultation exercise, the regulations were significantly amended and a second consultation exercise on the redraft was held this September. No new significant points were raised as part of that exercise. My officials met the Law Society of Scotland to resolve the remaining points. I am most grateful to 4 all who contributed, and in particular to the director general who, I am pleased to be able to report, now expresses himself content. Our aim in drawing up the regulations has been threefold. First, we wish to provide a level playing field for the providers of legal services, both so that the traditional providers should not be unfairly disadvantaged and so that the new professions should have the best possible conditions in which to become established and flourish. Secondly, we were very conscious of the need for a high degree of customer protection. Protection against mistakes and against fraud is provided elsewhere. These regulations, however, cover such matters as independent financial advice, confidentiality, fees, conflict of interest, terms of engagement letters, the need for qualified supervision, information to the client, commissions, the keeping of records, delay, complying with undertakings, withdrawal from transactions, clients' money and the interest on it, and complaints. Finally, we wished to ensure that the latest thinking on good practice was encouraged. That is precisely what these regulations can do, and I strongly commend them to the Committee.

4.33 pm

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): I welcome these provisions. As the Minister said, they relate to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1990 and were set in cold storage for a year or so afterwards. The Opposition feel that they will go a long way to ensuring fair competition between these new professions and the current providers, who are solicitors. The differences do not currently cause distortion of competition, but we welcome anything that ensures more competition. Indeed, that is a hallmark of new Labour—I am surprised that the Government did not introduce this idea well before that. They are behind us in their thinking and we welcome the fact that they are catching us up. The need for competition in this market is extremely important. The Minister mentioned the Law Society of Scotland. It has no objections to this. The hallmark should be quality, price and service in competition. If the regulations achieve those ends, they will serve the interests of those in Scotland well. I therefore welcome them.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Executry Practitioners (Scotland) Regulations 1997.

Draft Independent Qualified Conveyancers (Scotland) Regulations 1997

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Independent Qualified Conveyancers (Scotland) Regulations 1997. [Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to Five o 'clock.

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THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Shersby, Sir Michael(Chairman)

Ashby, Mr.

Carlisle, Sir Kenneth

Deva, Mr.

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Evennett, Mr.

Key, Mr.

McFall, Mr.

MacGregor, Mr.

McLoughlin, Mr.

Ryder, Mr.

Taylor, Sir Teddy

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