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Viscount Astor: Included on the Marshalled List with Amendment No. 128B are Amendments Nos. 129, 130, 130A and 131. I believe the Minister and I have the same groupings. I do not know whether he would like to speak to Amendment No. 128B before we start.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am happy to do that and I am grateful for the suggestion. The noble Viscount is quite right that Amendments Nos. 128B, 129, 130, 130A and 131 are all in this group.

Amendment No. 128B clarifies who is not caught by the commissioner's code of standards. They are persons authorised to practise by a designated professional body, those working under the supervision of such a person and those mentioned in Clause 74(6).

Amendment No. 130A is a drafting amendment tabled to ensure consistency with the language of Section 74(2)(c). Amendment No. 129 would remove the provision for the extension of the commissioner's code of standards in part or whole to designated professional bodies. It is intended that the provision would be used if a professional body was failing to regulate its members effectively in the provision of immigration advice or services. It is a useful interim measure. If the provision was removed, the first option would be for the commissioner to seek the removal of a body from the list of designated bodies and require every member of the body offering immigration advice to register individually. That would work to the disadvantage of the professional body, because it would not be given what most people would regard as a fair opportunity to improve its regulation following the application of the code of standards to it. I ask the noble Viscount not to press it for that reason. It offers the "nuclear option" as the only alternative.

Where the commissioner's code of standards is extended to a designated professional body, Amendment No. 130 would require the body to take account of the code rather than requiring its members to comply with the code. It is intended that the provision could be used if a professional body is failing to regulate its members effectively. In the event of such a failure, it would be inappropriate and ineffective to require a professional body to take account of the code of standards rather than expecting its members to comply with it fully.

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Amendment No. 131 is consequential on Amendment No. 130. For the reasons that I have given, I ask the noble Viscount not to press them.

Viscount Astor: I understand the Minister's argument. Perhaps a brief explanation would help. I realise that the amendment is flawed because it goes wider than was intended. It arose from the concerns expressed by the Law Society of Scotland, which already has its own code of conduct and code of practice to cover solicitors practising in that area of the law. It felt that another code was not necessary. I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. We shall consider it carefully. I shall not be moving any of the three amendments in my name.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 128C:


Page 115, line 14, after ("bodies;") insert--
("( ) the designated judges;
( ) the Lord President of the Court of Session;
( ) the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Simon): Before calling Amendment No. 129, I advise the Committee that if it is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 129A to 131B inclusive due to pre-emption.

[Amendment No. 129 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 129A:


Page 115, line 21, leave out (", after consulting the Commissioner,").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 130 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 130A:


Page 115, line 24, leave out from ("to") to ("and") in line 25 and insert ("practise as a member of the profession whose members are regulated by that body;").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 131 not moved.]

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 131A:


Page 115, line 26, at end insert--
("( ) If the Secretary of State is proposing to act under sub-paragraph (1) he must, before doing so, consult--
(a) the Commissioner;
(b) the Legal Services Ombudsman, if the proposed order would affect a designated professional body in England and Wales;
(c) the Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman, if the proposed order would affect a designated professional body in Scotland;

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(d) the lay observers appointed under Article 42 of the Solicitors (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, if the proposed order would affect a designated professional body in Northern Ireland.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 131B:


Page 115, line 31, at end insert--
("( ) Before deciding whether or not to give his approval under sub-paragraph (2)(a), the Lord Chancellor must consult--
(a) the designated judges, if the order affects a designated professional body in England and Wales;
(b) the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, if it affects a designated professional body in Northern Ireland.
( ) Before deciding whether or not to give their approval under sub-paragraph (2)(b), the Scottish Ministers must consult the Lord President of the Court of Session.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Amendment No. 132: Viscount Astor?

Viscount Astor: Not moved.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Amendment No. 133: Viscount Astor?

Viscount Astor: Paragraph 4 of Amendment No. 133 gives the commissioner the power to investigate complaints on a number of matters. Sub-paragraph (2)(c) refers to an alleged breach of the code. This clarifying amendment matches the corresponding provision in sub-paragraph (2)(d) in relation to a complaint that the commissioner's rules have been breached. It could not have been intended that any persons not subject to the code--

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have been moving with some rapidity. I think that the noble Viscount wanted to move Amendment No. 132, because, to his surprise and justified delight, I had agreed to it. We have skipped over that too quickly.

Viscount Astor: I am very grateful to the Minister. Having been offered an amendment, I seem to have missed it. I am delighted to move Amendment No. 132 formally.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 132:


Page 115, line 35, at end insert--
("(1A) Before establishing the scheme or altering it, the Commissioner must consult--
(a) each of the designated professional bodies; and
(b) such other persons appearing to him to represent the views of persons engaged in the provision of immigration advice or immigration services as he considers appropriate.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

21 Jul 1999 : Column 1017

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 133:


Page 115, line 42, at end insert ("by a person to whom the Code applies").

The noble Viscount said: I apologise for jumping the gun and nearly ruining my modest success.

Paragraph 4(2)(c) refers to an alleged breach of the code. This clarifying amendment matches the corresponding provision in sub-paragraph (2)(d) in relation to a complaint that the commissioner's rules have been breached. It could not have been intended that any persons not subject to the code should be investigated on the basis of an alleged breach of it.

Under Amendment No. 134, the immigration services commissioner would have the power to refer any alleged breach by a member of a designated professional body of that body's rules to the relevant professional body. The Office for the Supervision of Solicitors will be given additional powers of investigation under the Access to Justice Bill. The aim of the amendment is to avoid the unnecessary conduct of two investigations on the same alleged breach.

Amendment No. 135 is designed to ensure the referral of complaints about members of professional bodies to their relevant professional body for investigation. The aim is to ensure that all complaints relating to members of one body are conducted by the same body and to avoid members being subject to the unnecessary conduct of two investigations by their professional body and the immigration services commissioner.

The aim of Amendment No. 137 is to ensure that the exercise of the powers to set targets is consistent with that conferred on any legal services complaints commissioner under the Access to Justice Bill. There is also a requirement for consultation on the approach to the drawing-up of directions setting a timetable to be followed by a designated professional body. A reasonable timetable should be based on the principle that matters should be handled with all due despatch.

Amendment No. 143 is intended to ensure consistency with the powers conferred on the Lord Chancellor and any legal service complaints commissioner appointed by him under the Access to Justice Bill. I beg to move.


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