Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Grieve: I welcome amendment No. 94, because it both meets the issue that the Lord Chancellor was trying to address in removing the monopoly, which appears to be archaic and unnecessary, but at the same time provides some measure of protection to the Incorporated Company of Scriveners in maintaining its identity in so far as the marketplace wishes that identity to be maintained.

The information provided by the Incorporated Company of Scriveners suggested that there are different roles for the notary public and the scrivener notary. In those circumstances, there is a clear entitlement for that distinction to be protected in their titles. I hope that the Government will accept amendment No. 94 because it appears to satisfy the company's just desire that people should not be misled about the different roles.

22 Jun 1999 : Column 1058

The Solicitor-General: It is always a pleasure to listen to the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) and to learn a little more history, both generally and about the Brookes. However, the Government will resist the clause. I should explain briefly the background to the issue as it may not be familiar to every hon. Member.

Notaries authenticate certain legal documents, mainly for use abroad, by signing and sealing them. They may also prepare legal documents for use abroad, undertake conveyancing and probate work, translate foreign legal documents, administer oaths and take affidavits.

The Incorporated Company of Scriveners currently holds a monopoly over notarial work in the City of London and the surrounding three miles. Clause 46 will end that restrictive practice and, we hope, increase competition.

I have three general points to make in relation to the amendment. First, I emphasise that the Government's proposals go no further than abolishing the monopoly. They will not prevent notaries from being members of the scriveners' company if they wish, nor will they prevent members of that company from offering a competitive service compared with other notaries. There will be nothing to prevent notaries from advertising their adherence to the company, if they believe that that is an assurance of quality to the public. Those clients who want the specialist services that scrivener notaries provide will continue to be able to obtain them.

Secondly, I am not convinced that the public could be protected only by the creation of a new offence. Due to the specialist nature of the notarial work, scriveners' clients are not an uninformed group. They include financial and banking institutions and other large commercial organisations. If such clients had any doubt about whether someone was a scrivener notary, it would be open to them to check with the incorporated company.

Moreover, there are existing safeguards for the public against those who seek to misrepresent their position. I make particular reference to section 14 of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, which covers false or misleading statements as to services. One of the leading cases under that section is Queen v. Breeze, which involved a person claiming to be an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. That was not true, and the Court of Appeal found that an offence had been committed under the 1968 Act; so the incorporated company may be able to take advice on the protection afforded by that section.

My third general point may be of interest to the House. The titles of "barrister" and "legal executive" are not protected. Under the Solicitors Act 1974, there is an offence similar to the one proposed. It covers people who pretend to be solicitors. However, it applies generally to solicitors, not to any single group. It does not apply, as would the amendment, to a special group of notaries.

Finally, there is no hard evidence that non-scriveners provide any lesser service than scriveners. The Archbishop of Canterbury's faculty office oversees the entire notarial profession and has made it clear that all notaries are qualified to do all notarial acts. The scriveners' monopoly is geographical and limited to certain areas of London. I therefore urge the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Garnier: I seek clarification from the Solicitor-General. Did he say that section 14 of the Trade

22 Jun 1999 : Column 1059

Descriptions Act 1968 protects members of the company as a matter of law, or simply that they should take advice about whether it does? I think that we are entitled to the Solicitor-General's opinion.

The Solicitor-General: I give advice to the Government, not to private individuals. However, I urge the society to examine that section of the 1968 Act closely, as its authority bears directly on the matter raised.

Mr. Grieve: The Solicitor-General has advised the House to reject the amendment. One of his reasons is that the protection that it offers is not needed because another is available. In the circumstances, that opinion appears rather pertinent.

11.15 pm

The Solicitor-General: I cited a leading Court of Appeal decision, which the hon. Gentleman should read closely.

Mr. Garnier: Is there a reference?

The Solicitor-General: Yes, it is 1973, Queen's Bench. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) should receive reassurance from that.

Mr. Brooke: I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for his response. He may not be aware that he made a mild slip of the tongue at the beginning of his speech when, instead of saying that he would resist the amendment, he said that he would resist the clause. As I had graciously said that I would not do so, I thought that position slightly perverse. I mention it merely to show that I was hanging on his lips throughout his speech.

I am grateful for the reference to the Solicitors Act 1974. I had been tempted to include a reference to the definition of solicitors, but the Solicitor-General clearly would have rebuffed me, and I have saved my breath intelligently. I am grateful for the spirit in which he has addressed the society's predicament and for the pointer that he offered, even if he came under sniper fire from elsewhere in the House about the possible paradox or contradiction in his advice. What he said will be helpful to my constituents, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


That clause 54 be transferred to end of line 32 on page 33.--[Mr. Vaz.]


That clause 59 be transferred to end of line 5 on page 31.--[Mr. Vaz.]


That clause 60 be transferred to end of line 32 on page 33.--[Mr. Vaz.]

22 Jun 1999 : Column 1060

Clause 70

Enforcement of community orders

Amendment made: No. 1, in page 39, line 14, leave out from '(which' to 'has' in line 16 and insert
'makes provision about the enforcement of community orders by the Crown Court)'.--[Mr. Cranston.]
That clause 70, as amended, be transferred to end of line 32 on page 33.--[Mr. Vaz.]

Clause 74

Greater London Magistrates' Court Authority

Amendment proposed: No. 100, in page 44, line 34, leave out from beginning to end of line 10 on page 46 and insert--


59B.--(1) The Lord Chancellor may pay grants to the Greater London Magistrates' Courts Authority in respect of the Authority's expenditure.
(2) Grants under this section shall be paid at such times, in such manner and subject to such conditions as the Lord Chancellor may with the concurrence of the Treasury determine.
(3) Each London local authority shall pay to the Authority such amount in respect of--
(a) any kind of the Authority's expenditure in any year; or
(b) if less, such amount as may, in relation to that kind of expenditure and that year, be for the time being determined by the Lord Chancellor,
as may be determined in accordance with regulations made by the Lord Chancellor by statutory instrument.
(4) The Lord Chancellor may by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision as to the making of payments under subsection (3) above, including provision--
(a) as to whether payments are to be made by instalments or otherwise;
(b) as to the time when payments are to be made;
(c) conferring a right to interest on anything unpaid; and
(d) permitting a London local authority to anticipate a payment under this section when making calculations in accordance with section 32 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (originally or by way of substitute).
(5) The Lord Chancellor may with the consent of the Treasury make provision by regulations made by statutory instrument as to how any kind of the Authority's expenditure is to be determined.
(6) Subject to any such regulations, the Lord Chancellor may direct that in determining any kind of the Authority's expenditure there shall be taken into account or disregarded, to such extent as may be specified in the direction, such items as may be so specified.
(7) A statutory instrument containing regulations made by virtue of this section shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.--[Mr. Vaz.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 101 to 103 and 105 to 118.

Next Section

IndexHome Page