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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can be extremely brief in introducing this amendment. It raises the status of paralegals. We talked about this at some length in Committee. I simply want to know whether the Government intend, by amendment, to include paralegals as authorised persons under the Bill. I need no more than a yes or no answer. I beg to move.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall be very brief. I have spoken to judicial review in relation to an authority on which the noble Baroness will obviously wish to receive advice from her advisers. They will have to read 40 pages or more of the transcript. At this stage, I will say only that I am moving the amendment for two reasons. One is because the decision of the Court of Appeal makes it clear that judicial review is available under the aegis of the High Court. That ought to be written into the Bill. The other reason that I am moving the amendment is to give an opportunity for the noble Baroness to give advice on what I have said. I beg to move.
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, although it is essential, as the noble Lord will recognise, that the board can discharge its regulatory duties effectively, it is equally important that there is an opportunity to contest the boards decision where it has acted illegally, improperly or otherwise irrationally. Other than in the case of the boards power to fine, for which separate provision is made in the Bill as noble Lords will know,
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we could create uncertaintyI have taken good legal advice on thisas it is unclear where the boundaries lie that separate administrative decisions that are taken in implementing the Act and other administrative decisions taken by the board and the approved regulators. This may run the risk of inadvertently narrowing the courts discretion. It is therefore very important that judicial review is available but is not constrained, as unfortunately it would be if the amendment were accepted.
Clause 7 is an important clause that allows the board to carry out functions that are in effect ancillary to the conduct of its principal regulatory functions. It is about contractual arrangements for staffing, IT, procurement and so on, and if we took it out, we could reduce the boards ability to discharge its duties. It is a standard provision. I could cite a number of Acts in which noble Lords will find it: the Access to Justice Act 1999, the Communications Act 2003, the Energy Act 2004, the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Companies (Audit, Investigations and Community Enterprise) Act 2004. It does not mean that the board can do anything that it feels like; it is about ancillary functions of the kind that I have identified which it may wish to carry out. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured that judicial review is available in the way I suggested, and that his amendment would constrain the ability to use it in a way that I am sure he would not wish.
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