Draft Compensation (Claims Management Services) Regulations 2006

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Simon Hughes: On the benefits issue, if somebody holds themselves up as being able to help a person to get all the benefits and state compensation to which they are entitled, much as a local council would do in encouraging people to take up benefit, will they be covered for everything other than the specific benefits set out in the regulations?
Bridget Prentice: My understanding is that they would be covered only for those matters in the regulations. If others were to be brought within the scope of the regulations, we would have to have some evidence that there was a problem.
I do not believe that the requirement to assess the suitability of the applicant is too wide. The head of regulation, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, will make the assessment based on the criteria outlined in paragraph 10(2), taking into account other factors listed in paragraph 10(3), and they will need some discretion in order to do that.
The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey asked an interesting question about individual authorisation, which is important. We based our decision on proportionality. We often hear from the Opposition the accusation that we over-regulate—we heard it from the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk earlier—and this is an attempt to get the balance right. We want to minimise the burdens on small businesses and on solicitors, who need to take responsibility. However, cold calling should not happen—it is banned under the rules, so that temptation is excluded.
The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey also asked about supervision, suspension and cancellation, and the period between the regulator and the tribunal. Those matters will be covered by the tribunal rules, which are not yet settled. However, we will consider them carefully and will ensure that they are no longer than absolutely necessary.
On audited accounts, the problem is that not all businesses are required to produce them. However, the regulator would be able to require an authorised person to provide information, including audited accounts, if he felt that he needed to be more confident about the financial aspect of the business. It would be within his power to ask for audited accounts, but that would be discretionary.
Simon Hughes: I also asked the Minister about the complaints handling procedure, which appears to have disappeared from the requirements.
Bridget Prentice: I will have to get back to the hon. Gentleman on that. In the Legal Services Bill, it will come under the office for legal complaints, but in the interim, I will write to him specifically about why that has dropped out of the system.
These regulations and orders are another step in our process of protecting consumers. I passionately believe that the consumer has to be at the heart of the regulatory process, as the consumer has to be at the heart of legal services, and the regulations are essential in delivering the statutory framework that will achieve that aim. I hope that they reflect not only the Government’s commitment to protecting consumers, but that of Parliament as whole, and I ask the Committee to approve them.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Compensation (Claims Management Services) Regulations 2006.


That the Committee has considered the draft Compensation (Regulated Claims Management Services) Order 2006.—[Bridget Prentice.]


That the Committee has considered the draft Compensation (Specification of Benefits) Order 2006.—[Bridget Prentice.]
Committee rose at nineteen minutes past Eleven o’clock.
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Prepared 6 December 2006