§ Mr. Michael Brown
asked the Attorney-General if there are any plans to strengthen the powers of the Law Society in investigating complaints referred to it, as recommended in the recent report of the lay observer.
My hon. Friend is to some extent not fully informed. The Law Society already has very wide powers on investigation in cases of professional malpractice, but questions of damages for negligence are for decision by the courts, as is the case with all similar actions against members of any other profession. All solicitors are required by law to carry insurance against liability for negligence, and the society is anxious that any domestic action it might take should not prejudice subsequent legal proceedings.
The recent report by the Benson commission recommended that the society should investigate allegations of bad professional work regardless of any potential claim in law which the complainant might have. The society is urgently considering this recommendation. In paragraph 10 of his annual report, the lay observer has made some interesting observations on this subject which will be taken into account.
Meanwhile, the society has arranged that a solicitor member of its negligence panel will give free professional advice on whether a client has good grounds for a claim against a solicitor, a service which is believed to be unique amongst the professions. The society has not yet had time to digest all the implications on the lay observer's report in which he comments on the limitations of the society's powers to require production by Solicitors of documents, or answers to questions. The Government have not at present any plans for primary legislation in this field.
§ Mr. Michael Brown
asked the Attorney-General if he will invite the Law Society to devise a scheme which would enable it to arbitrate on small claims arising from complaints against solicitors which may be brought before it, as recommended in the recent report of the lay observer.384W
The lay observer's report was published on 27 April and this proposal is at present being considered by the Law Society, on which the responsibility for such measures lies.