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MPs call for simpler regulation of legal services

MPs would back moves to simplify the way legal services are regulated, according to new research from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The SRA commissioned a poll which asked MPs for their views on the regulation of legal services, the experience of their constituents in purchasing legal services, and the quality and diversity of legal services. Among the findings was evidence that members were likely to support moves that simplified regulation.

The survey was carried out by ComRes in January and February of this year with 156 members and reflected the composition of the House of Commons along party lines. Of the MPs who took part in the survey, 83 per cent said they were concerned there was a lack of understanding of the regulation of legal services by constituents.

And 72 per cent agreed that simplifying regulation of legal services should be a key priority for regulatory reform. Also, 73 per cent agreed they were concerned that there is insufficient redress for consumers.

Antony Townsend, Chief Executive of the SRA, said: "The survey adds weight to what we've been saying for a while and shows that MPs are also concerned about the complexity of legal services. Their response highlights that, for them, simplifying the regulation of legal services for consumers should be a priority for regulatory reform.

"Our firm view is that all legal services should be regulated, both in the public interest and in the interests of consumers."

The results also showed that MPs were largely concerned about their constituents' lack of knowledge and understanding of legal services. This in turn would impair their ability to choose the most appropriate legal services product they need.

The survey found 86 per cent of those questioned were concerned that their constituents did not have sufficient knowledge about whether or not the services they were buying were of good quality, and that 85 per cent thought their constituents would not know if the services they were using were appropriate. Nearly 70 per cent said they were concerned that there is currently insufficient quality assurance of legal services for consumers. Only 28 per cent thought that it should be at the customer's own risk if services were purchased that were or poor quality or irrelevant to their needs.

Antony Townsend said: "The feedback from MPs will be invaluable as it guides the work we do to try and remove the barriers the public think they face when they enter the legal services market. This includes seeing how easy it is to understand what services are on offer and if there's sufficient quality and choice available across England and Wales.

"We are continually developing the consumer section of our website, which gives the public advice on choosing a solicitor, allows them to check a solicitor's record and tells them what help they can, and can't, expect from us as the regulator."

The SRA is holding a symposium the on the scope of regulation on April 26. Key stakeholders will be asked for their thoughts at the invitation-only event.

View results of the ComRes survey of MPs (PDF 15 pages, 230K)

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