§ The Solicitor-General (Mr. Peter Archer)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 19, at end insert—'(1A) It shall be the Society's duty before submitting training regulations to the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls for their concurrence under subsection (1) above, to consult the Secretary of State, or, if he so directs, any person or body of persons specified in the direction'.Perhaps you will permit me, Mr. Speaker, within the rules of order, or only barely trespassing outside them, to explain that unhappily my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) has had to visit hospital following an accident, and perhaps I may also be permitted to express our disappointment and the sympathy of the House.
The amendment has emerged from discussion in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) asked that there should be provision for what he called community input in the discussions concerning legal education. My hon. Friends the Members for Nottingham, West and Southampton, lichen (Mr. Mitchell) proposed that there should 742 be consultations by the Law Society before submitting regulations to the Lord Chancellor and to the other judges.
One difficulty which arose is that the discussions on the Ormrod proposals are still proceeding, so that it is not yet clear for what education system we are legislating. There may come a time when the first stage in the training of a solicitor is an academic course leading to a university degree, and it is not suggested that the Law Society should attempt to control either the teachers or the students. Even at present the regulations specify certain educational qualifications before enrolment. They are often obtained at universities or polytechnics, and the Law Society does not seek to intervene in the courses leading to those qualifications.
The problem was to devise a form appropriate to whatever system may emerge. At present the regulations are made by the Law Society with the concurrence of my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, who require to be unanimous. What was wanted was a form of consultation representing the lay public, necessarily by someone who was not a lawyer. It was argued in Committee thatthe Secretary of State for Education and Science and persons or bodies whom he thought should be consultedmight be the most suitable form of consultation. That is what is now proposed. I hope that it may be felt to inject the necessary element of what my hon. Friend called community input and to meet the arguments raised in Committee.
§ Sir Michael Havers (Wimbledon)
I rise only to see within what limits the amendment may be. It says that the Secretary of State, who I imagine is the Secretary of State for Education and Science, may direct thatany person or body of personsmay be consulted. I should like to have some reassurance that these matters will be kept within a certain framework. I do not see any future Secretary of State playing the fool with this provision, but it must be within the context of university education or within the limits of necessary legal training.
743 When we look further through the Bill we find that everything else regarding legal training is contained within the limitation of training regulations. I should like reassurance from the Solicitor-General that this matter will be dealt with in a way which will impose a sensible limitation when outside bodies are asked to advise.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for tabling the amendment. After all the discussions that have taken place it is a useful and necessary amendment.
I agree that this is a Government Bill, but it was taken over from the Law Society. I have always wondered how the society could ever have come forward with a Bill proposing training regulations, in an atmosphere in which the Ormrod Committee suggested that a great deal more of the training of solicitors and barristers should take place within our universities and polytechnics, without any proposals that consultation should take place with educational interests.
It is a small but important point that in new Section 2A the word "legal" has been dropped from the phrase "…legal education, training …" which appeared in the previous section. In my opinion that is a proper omission. We discussed this matter in Committee. I think that the omission of "legal" is partly a recognition of the fact that we do not want our solicitors to be only legally educated. It is right that the Law Society and the Lord Chancellor should call in the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I do not know why the hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) is worried about the sort of people the Secretary of State might call in.
§ Sir Michael Havers
I am not worried, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell the House what sort of other education he expects these people should be subjected to in this context.
§ Mr. Price
I find "subjected to" an extraordinary phrase to use when referring to education. Be that as it may, I believe that it is necessary for our lawyers to have a far wider understanding of society. They should have an understanding of a broad area or sociology and an understanding of the widest aspects of 744 society—for example, political life, community life and new community developments of every form. I should expect lawyers to have that sort of education. including experience of community work.
More and more young solicitors are dissatisfied with the sort of education they have received. They are going in not for the traditional forms of solicitors' work but for a much wider range of work—for example, neighbourhood law centres.
§ Sir Michael Havers
Will the hon. Gentleman please tell us what subjects young student solicitors should be asked to read over and above the subjects included in the course they are required to take by the Law Society?
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
If I hesitate before answering the question it is not because I am ducking it. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will study the syllabuses of universities and polytechnics, he will find that the word "subjects" is becoming irrelevant and out of date, because the syllabuses are multi-disciplinary. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants a list, I suggest sociology, psychology and economics—not a complete course in those subjects but education on those aspects which bear particularly on the law.
We shall be told that these subjects are already covered, but in my view they are inadequately covered. The Secretary of State mentioned in the amendment—presumably the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is responsible for education in its widest sense—should be allowed to comment on these training regulations before they are finally made with the concurrence of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls.
I am no great supporter of Europe and I do not want to call it in aid unnecessarily, but in the consideration which the European Commission is giving to the professions far greater emphasis is put on the necessity for a wider educational context. Europe has a far better idea of the sort of education which we should be giving to our professionals than has the Law Society.
For that reason I welcome the amendment, I hope that the Solicitor-General 745 will direct the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to the amendment and ensure that the proper arrangements are made in the Department to exercise over the profession an educational and community input which is wider than the confines of the profession itself. I hope that that will apply also over a wider range of professions which have stood apart ever since the nineteenth century.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I rise not to oppose the amendment but to say a few words as one who is qualified as a lawyer. I declare my interest as a solicitor. I do not have a law degree. I qualified in the old-fashioned way by serving for five years—a period which was interrupted by the war. I am told by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) that that training was inadequate for the service of my clients, and that I must at least have someone to oversee me and to train me in sociology, psychology and all the other "ologies" that he puts forward.
The hon. Gentleman neglected to say that one learns by experience. Someone who is articled to a solicitor meets people across the table, and when he asks such questions as, "Did you beat your wife, or did your wife beat you?" he learns a little about sociology and how people live and work.
The hon. Gentleman is too critical of the Law Society while implying that solicitors do not have real contact with the real world. The real world, it would appear to the hon. Gentleman, exists in the universities, the sociology laboratories and similar institutions. It is all very well the hon. Gentleman going on like that. There is nothing like practising as a solicitor, reaching people and talking to them about practical problems. I should hate to think that anybody ever qualified as a solicitor—I am not speaking of the Bar—without meeting people, talking to them and dealing with their problems. Otherwise, the solicitor would find himself in a great deal of trouble when he came to practise.
§ Mr. Christopher Price
I agree that too much "ology" can ruin education. I hold no brief for those subjects. The solicitor sees his client across the table in one image. I should like more solicitors to understand the sort of family back- 746 ground in which the client has grown up and what has brought him to the point where he wishes to visit a solicitor. For that reason I should like legal training to include social work and practical training, so that the young solicitor sees his first client across the table far more as a member of a family with problems and less as just somebody sitting on the other side of his table.
§ Mr. Clegg
The hon. Gentleman seems to regard solicitors as people without any sort of background who suddenly appear behind office desks. Perhaps I can explain my own background so that the hon. Gentleman can see how I look at a client across a table.
My grandfather and father were cotton weavers in mills. My father progressed in the world. I became a solicitor because of my father's hard work. I know these people. I practise within the constituency which I now represent. I know what fishermen are. I talk to them. When I see them across the table I understand them not because of any course of education but because I meet with and talk to them. This training is one component in the Law Society's system of articles. This cannot be taught, much as the hon. Gentleman would like that.
The Law Society would be well advised to consult with the educational authorities about the courses they provide. An interchange between them would do no harm.
I support this amendment.
Mr. Mark Hughes
I listened with deep interest to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman on the need for a solicitor to be trained in the solicitor's craft. I listened with equal interest to the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) on the need for the solicitor to be educated in other matters.
What worries me is that there appears to be a loophole in the Bill through which, if he so chose, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales could drive a fairly large coach and horses. I refer to Section 31 of the Stannaries Act 1855, Sections 1 to 30 and 32 to 38 of which were repealed in 1896. Section 31 remains on the Statute Book and contains this information:Any person appointed to act as solicitor for the Duchy of Cornwall may practise as such in all courts747…Whenever any person shall be appointed by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, or other the personage for the time being entitled to the possessions of the Duchy of Cornwall, to act as attorney or solicitor in the affairs of the said Duchy, it shall be lawful for such person to act and practise as such attorney or solicitor in such affairs in all and every court, jurisdiction, and place in any and every part of the United Kingdom, any statute, order, rule, usage, or custom relating to attornies or solicitors, or the admission, inrolment, or practice of attornies or solicitors, to the contrary notwithstanding.When we are considering that it shall be the Law Society's duty—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. I am slightly confused by the hon. Gentleman's speech. We are dealing with Government Amendment No. 1. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) is referring to the Stannaries Act, and I suspect that he is speaking to new Clause 1, which was not moved.
Then may I say this? The amendment says:It shall be the Society's duty before submitting training regulations …However, I understand that, whatever the society's duty may be, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales may appoint a solicitor who has no training qualifications at all.
The amendment has been honourably and beautifully moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General to give the society certain powers and to suggest that it should consult the Secretary of State or, if he so directs,any person or body of persons specified in the direction.Is His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales considered to be a person or body of persons specified in the direction under the amendment? If he is not, I want to know how the ordinary solicitors envisaged in this legislation are to be made compatible with the still existing legal enactment under the Stannaries Act 1855.
It is no good my hon. and learned Friend moving this amendment which says that the society's duty shall be to do this, that and the other, when there is 748 a person who, however excellent his intentions, has the ability written into a statute to avoid the intentions of the amendment.
This amendment seeks to lay down that the Law Society shall take certain actions and shall consult the Secretary of State before setting up a procedure for training. At the same time, the legislation allows another person to obviate and get round the whole of that process. It is curious that my hon. and learned Friend should move an amendment suggesting that the Law Society shall do various things, in the full and certain knowledge that, if His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales chooses, he can make solicitors by the dozen. That makes a complete nonsense of the amendment.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I wonder whether the hon. Member for Durham is circumventing the ruling which I gave. I think that he is attempting to introduce an argument which I understand would have been relevant to new Clause 1. However, that new Clause was not moved. The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the substance of Amendment No. 1.
I accede to your ruling, of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Therefore I ask the Solicitor-General whether he will consider, before Third Reading, introducing after the words "submitting training regulations" some concept that, where no training regulations are required, as is the case for those solicitors appointed to the Stannaries Court under the Stannaries Act 1855, such people should have some sort of training. I should be delighted to be appointed by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales as Duke of Cornwall as a solicitor under the Stannaries Act.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that I should point out that the clause deals with the training of persons seeking admission as solicitors. I do not see how we can include the Duchy of Cornwall in this matter.
With the greatest deference, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am not seeking to make a nonsense of the Bill. I am worried that there should exist upon the Statute Book one of those anachronistic statutes which enables a particular person to appoint as a solicitor someone who has not had any training. When the Bill is enacted that right will still reside in His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I have no wish to delay the progress of the Bill, but to include a process for the training of solicitors while at the same time leaving this totally anachronistic and anomalous situation open seems to make a mockery of decent law making in this House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
No. Perhaps we could come to that in a moment. I understand that the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) is intervening.
§ Sir M. Havers
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When the debate started new Clause 1 was sought to be moved. Your predecessor in the Chair refused to accept it. We are now discussing Amendment No. I. We have had a very interesting and fascinating diversion for the past 10 or 15 minutes, but this is an attempt to circumvent your predecessor's decision. I suggest, on a point of order, that the hon. Gentleman's speech is an attempt to get round your predecessor's ruling.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Arising from a point of order I hoped that I made it clear that the Second Reading of new Clause 1 had not been moved. I find it difficult to understand how the hon. Gentleman can relate the substance of that new clause to the amendment that we are discussing.
§ Mr. R. C. Mitchell
Amendment No. 1 seeks to provide:It shall be the Society's duty before submitting training regulations … to consult the Secretary of State, or, if he so directs, any person or body of persons specified in the direction.Could it not, according to those last few words, be directed to consult His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales?
I do not wish to make a tomfoolery of this House or of the Bill. I loathe anachronistic and out-of-date legislation being carried on. I want to know whether the words,any person or body of persons specified in the direction",mean that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will be consulted on who and how solicitors in the Duchy of Cornwall shall be trained. It is a perfectly proper matter to raise.
§ Sir Michael Havers
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This must, with respect, be yet another attempt to get round Mr. Speaker's ruling. It was ruled that the new Clause could not be moved, and this is a device, at this late stage, to try to get round the ruling of your predecessor in the Chair. I must protest on behalf of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Clause 2, which governs education and training, refers specifically to thetraining of persons seeking admission as solicitors",and those are the operative words. I must ask the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) to leave the point that he has been making because Mr. Speaker ruled that new Clause 1 could not be discussed.
May I ask you a simple question, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Are you prepared, while occupying the Chair, to see go on to the statute book a measure which permits a totally unqualified person to be admitted to the rôle of solicitor?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Perhaps I may first answer the hon. Member for Durham. I abide by Mr. Speaker's ruling in this matter. New Clause 1 was not moved, and therefore I consider it out of order to discuss the point that has been raised by 751 the hon. Member because it is not relevant to Amendment No. 1 which is being debated.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I shall not detain the House for long because I want to telephone my wife, but I have a series of relevant points to make.
I welcome the amendment because it opens up the shroud that has hung round the training of lawyers and solicitors—we are here concerned solely with solicitors—for far too long. The aim of the amendment is to ensure that consultations take place to widen the scope of entry to the profession of persons wishing to become solicitors.
The House should be clear that, following the implementation of the Ormrod report, we expect some radical improvement in the training of solicitors. For too long their training has been a device to confine the profession exclusively—not entirely, but largely so—to a body of persons who can afford to send their sons or daughters to be articled.
§ Mr. Clegg
Does the hon. Gentleman know what he is talking about? I have been a solicitor for many years. I have taken articled clerks from working-class families, paid them through their articles and had them qualified. I do not see how the hon. Gentleman can argue that the profession is seeking to keep people back. There may have been some reason for the hon. Gentleman's at the time that I became an articled clerk. My father paid £80 in stamp duty and £200 to the person who articled me. Since I have been in practice I have not required any payment. I pay my articled clerks and give them a jolly good training. The hon. Gentleman ought to speak from practical experience, or not at all.
§ Mr. Cryer
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I must tell the hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Gentleman, if we insist on this archaic procedure, that among people outside solicitors as a profession are regarded not as a public service 752 but as an expensive necessity in the last resort.
This amendment widens the educational scope. Solicitors provide a valuable public service in my view, but that is not the view of many people outside this House. I accept the point that the days of the very high premium and restricted entry are going. But they have not yet gone. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) cannot tell me that every solicitor's firm never asks for a premium and never pays poverty level wages during articles. He knows that there are some firms which do just this. I used to teach students in a technical college who were taking various legal courses so I do not speak without experience.
This amendment will have a twofold result. First, it will enable entry to the profession to be through ordinary educational institutions—
§ Mr. Clegg
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that at the moment a person does not have to take a course confined to the study of law to become a solicitor? It may take a person a year longer, but he can study some other discipline, say in the arts or sciences, and then qualify as a lawyer because he is a practical person. The present system does not mean that people in other disciplines can never become solicitors.
§ Mr. Cryer
That is right. What I am concerned with is the person who has not been through some other discipline and who wishes to enter the legal profession at once. Like all professions the legal profession needs able, intelligent, capable people. In many cases sons and daughters of working-class people are being denied entry to the legal profession because of the barriers erected, apparently not by the hon. Gentleman's firm, but by many other partnerships.
If, by taking the education of solicitors outside the narrow ambit of the law and looking to other institutions, we can get a fresh wind into the professional educational system, then we shall not diminish the profession but improve it. This is undeniable. I welcome this amendment. Hopefully it will be taken note of. Hopefully the Ormrod Committee's report will be acted on. I do not want the conservative legal profession to put the Ormrod Committee's report on the shelf.
753 I would like to see articles in the profession disappearing. I recognise the value of some form of practical education. I want more and more institutions, technical colleges, polytechnics, being able to mount courses which can form either part of a day-release course or part of a sandwich course pattern to widen the entry into the profession. Only in this way will the exclusive nature of the solicitors' profession be eroded so that sons and daughters of working people can have a genuine opportunity to enter the profession as easily as they can enter any other profession or occupation.
§ Sir Michael Havers
The hon. Gentleman is constantly talking about restrictions to entry to the legal profession. I should like to make it clear that, certainly at the Bar, and I am sure that the learned Solicitor-General will agree, there are no restrictions of any kind. Consider my own Chambers of 23 or 24 members. Not more than four, probably three, were educated at what we would call public schools. Most of them have been to university, most under their own steam. There is no restriction on admission to the Bar save that one can pass the exams, and I suspect that this is largely the case with the solicitors' profession.
The impression given by the hon. Member is that this is a restricted profession, limited to those with the money to pay for it. That is totally untrue of the Bar, and I am sure that the Solicitor-General will be able to speak of the solicitors as well. It would be wrong if any message went out from the House tonight that entry to either branch of the legal profession was limited in this way, when we are desperately short of recruits on both sides to these honourable professions.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
The House will know that I have just come into the Chair. The hon. Member will no doubt be coming to the substance of the amendment.
§ Mr. Cryer
I would have concluded my remarks but for the interjections. I was replying to an extensive interjection by the hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers). Since he referred to the barristers' profession, it seemed only reasonable that I should reply. When apprentice engineers have to prove their attendance at dinners in order to complete a course, I will accept that the barristers' profession is not restricted.
I welcome the amendment, which I hope will meet the criticisms which have been made, by opening wide a far too restrictive, hierarchical and remote profession to the sons and daughters of working people.
§ The Solicitor-General
This has been a lively and interesting debate—more so than I had originally hoped.
The Bill will be warmly welcomed by both the profession and the public. A number of us worked very hard for a considerable time to ensure that it found the statute book. We worked in an atmosphere of good temper and constructive suggestions. It would be a pity if the temperature were suddenly to rise and the Bill close its career in an atmosphere of ill-temper. I hope that will not happen.
I am disappointed that I could not tonight enter a debate on new Clause 1, but I will certainly write to my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes), and we may be able to discuss his interesting points privately. All I am permitted to do tonight within the rules of order is answer his question. There would certainly be power under 755 the amendment for the Secretary of State to direct that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales should be consulted. I think it a little unlikely that he would exercise that power. I am even prepared to enter into public discussion with my hon. Friend if he so wishes. Clearly, there is a lot more to be said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) asked whether the Secretary of State envisaged as exercising the functions under the Bill was the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The answer is, "Yes". My hon. Friend pointed out that the Bill no longer refers to "legal education and training". That is true. We discussed this in Committee. It is true partly for the reason he suggested—that it is hoped that a narrow concept of what used to be called "text book legal training" may now be a little outmoded. But it is a training for "persons seeking to be admitted or to practise as solicitors".
We can all suggest improvements in legal education. If it will make my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) happier, I will tell him that I have never contended that the present system is beyond improvement. I have spent virtually my adult life pointing out the contrary. I go further. Perhaps lawyers are sometimes a little reluctant to learn of other disciplines. But the legal profession is not alone in that. If I may put that marker down on behalf of my profession, I am content.
I assure the House that it is intended that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State shall take this amendment seriously, but I hope I can assure the hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) that he will not take it irresponsibly.
The Law Society itself is not unaware of the matters we have been discussing. I am sure that it will take account of what has been said in the debate, so possibly it will not require directions from the Secretary of State before making appropriate consultations.
I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Member wished me to give any more specific undertakings than that. I 756 cannot list specific persons or bodies the Secretary of State either will or will not direct the Law Society to consult. Certainly the intention is that these directions shall be confined to persons or bodies which are relevant to the education and training of persons seeking to be admitted as solicitors.
In reply in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, I agree that many people, particularly the kind of people he and I represent, are reluctant to consult solicitors. That is a great tragedy because they are the very people who often require to consult solicitors. One of the things I would like to achieve, if possible in the lifetime of this Government, is the kind of people we represent being much more prepared to take advice as to their rights and how to assert them. It would be a pity if anything were said tonight which might discourage that.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. The truth is that, as the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) and the hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon said, many solicitors come from the same background as my hon. Friend and I come from. It is true of members of the Bar as well. I come from a working-class background. There are many solicitors who have not found an impenetrable barrier in moving from a working-class background into the profession.
I think that it would be a pity if anything said tonight caused those I would call for want of a better expression "workingclass people" to feel more distrust of the legal profession than they do now. There have been occasions in the past when they had reason for suspicion, but for the most part now the solicitors' profession is able and willing to lend them the kind of help they need, and if any one message goes out from this debate I hope it will be that they will be well advised to avail themselves of that help.
§ Amendment agreed to.