HL Deb 08 February 1966 vol 272 cc640-1

2.44 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that the Law Society have published statements to the effect that they receive many thousands of complaints every year regarding the conduct of solicitors; and whether they can reconcile this information with a statement made on December 13, 1965, by the Lord Chancellor in this House that in the current year to that date the Disciplinary Committee considered complaints involving only 22 solicitors out of which 14 were found to be justified in whole or in part and applications to the Disciplinary Committee were made by the Law Society itself in respect of 14 solicitors.]


My Lords, as I stated in my reply to the noble Lord on December 16 last, the number of complaints received by the Law Society in any year is not a matter falling within the sphere of ministerial responsibility. The Law Society have, however, informed me that they receive a large number of complaints annually, many of which relate to persons and matters which are in no way their concern. All complaints which appear to reflect on the professional conduct of a solicitor are investigated by the Society, but the great majority are found to be without foundation.

In answer to the second part of the noble Lord's Question, there is no discrepancy between the information which I gave to the House on December 16 last, as to the number of complaints received by the Disciplinary Committee and the number of complaints regarding the conduct of solicitors received by the Law Society. Only a small proportion of the latter are of the kind which require consideration by the Disciplinary Committee.


My Lords, while thanking the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for his Answer, I should like to ask a short supplementary. Although the number of complaints received by the Law Society concerning behaviour of solicitors is undoubtedly trivial, does he not consider that there is altogether too great a disparity in these figures. Does he not consider that the costly and tedious procedure for submitting facts, by way of affidavits, direct to the Disciplinary Committee prevents many hundreds of cases of prima facie evidence of misconduct from ever reaching the Disciplinary Committee?


No, my Lords; I do not think so. It must be remembered that the Disciplinary Committee can be approached not merely through the Law Society but direct. Any private citizen can make a complaint direct to the Disciplinary Committee, who are not appointed by the Law Society but by the Master of the Rolls. If the Law Society had not put before the Disciplinary Committee complaints which they should have done, there would have been an increase in the complaints put forward by private citizens; and that has not been the case.