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ABS day ‘could be delayed until 2012’

19 July 2011

ABS day could be postponed from October this year until early in 2012, Andy Slaughter, shadow justice minister, has warned.

Speaking last night at the launch of the Legal Ombudsman annual report he said he was not sure how “far down the road” ABS day was, but businesses would discover that it would be “perhaps not this autumn” when parliament approved the necessary order.

Solicitors Journal reported last week that the SRA was pressing the Ministry of Justice for an implementation date for ABS, following indications from the LSB that the original date of 6 October 2011 might have to be delayed by a few weeks (see solicitorsjournal.com, 13 July 2011).

The regulator also said it had “made it clear” that it must be able to consider any spent criminal convictions of ABS owners and that parliament would need to pass a separate order to allow this.

The idea that MPs would not approve the order introducing ABSs or the ‘exceptions order’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act until 2012 will cause consternation at the LSB and infuriate businesses preparing to make license applications to the SRA before implementation this October.

The MoJ is reported as having accepted that the SRA’s orders cannot be approved before the end of October. It is understood, however, that the order relating to the Council of Licensed Conveyancers could be approved in advance of the SRA, as it is not pressing for an exceptions order.

Slaughter caused further raised eyebrows in Portcullis House, when, having praised the work of the LeO, he suggested it could take on the difficult task of regulating claims management companies from the Ministry of Justice.

He said the success of the launch of LeO meant that it would be able to support “additional responsibilities” in time, for example in the area of claims management.

“It may be more appropriate if it was regulated by an independent ombudsman than a government department,” he said. “That is one example. There are many examples.”

A senior LeO source told Solicitors Journal afterwards that the MoJ was desperate to get rid of the task of regulating claims management companies, but he would be appalled if LeO was given the job as it was not a regulatory body.

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