HL Deb 13 March 1934 vol 91 cc147-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I need detain your Lordships for a few minutes only. The object of the Bill is to correct a defect in one section of the Solicitors Act, 1932. Section 46 of that Act imposes a penalty upon any person not having in force a certificate authorising him to practise as a solicitor, who wilfully pretends to be or takes or uses any name, title, addition or description implying that he is qualified or recognised by the law as qualified to act as a solicitor. This is a very important provision. It is not merely that those who act on behalf of litigants ought to have attained to a certain knowledge and skill in the law. Solicitors have this qualification, but they are also subject to the discipline of the Law Society and the Judges. Litigants generally, and particularly poor and ignorant litigants, would often be the victims of imposture if it were not for this section. They might be persuaded by unqualified persons subject to no such discipline to employ them in litigation but for the proper vigilance of the Law Society in taking proceedings under the section in cases where unauthorised persons are discovered practising as solicitors.

It was while attempting to exercise this vigilance that the Law Society discovered a defect in the section. In a case of the Law Society versus United Service Bureau Limited, reported in The Times newspaper on November 10 last, the Court held that a corporation or a limited company could not be guilty of an offence under this section, inasmuch as the section must be held to contemplate a person who might or could have in force a practising certificate as a solicitor, and it was clear that a corporate body or company could not be admitted as a solicitor. It therefore followed as a result of this decision that the Solicitors Act could be evaded by any person or persons who formed themselves into a company for the purpose. Very great public evil would arise from such a proceeding. The Bill is designed to forbid the doing by a body corporate of any act which, by Section 46, would be forbidden if it were done by an individual. It only contains two clauses which carry out that purpose.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.