Subs issue top of list at Bar AGM

The Bar Council's problems in finding a legal way to force barristers to pay their subscriptions was due to become an issue at the council's annual general meeting (AGM) over the weekend.

Michael Blair, Bar Council treasurer, was due to include mention of the problem in his AGM address as The Lawyer went to press last week.

Problems arose when the Bar Council's two-year bid to change a rule forcing barristers to pay was rejected by the Lord Chancellor and four designated judges as ultra vires last month.

The Lord Chancellor followed a 1990 disciplinary tribunal case ruling that subscriptions furthered Bar trade union matters, which were non statutory and therefore could not be enforced.

Blair says primary legislation may be required to shore up the Bar Council's position, probably as a one- or two-clause Bill.

The Bar as a whole, in general meeting and by ballot, has “overwhelmingly supported” the enforcement of subscriptions.

A private Bar ballot vote taken in 1986 carried this by 1,831 to 150.

And yet non-payment by 570 private practice barristers – five per cent of the total – left a £150,000 hole in last year's Bar Council accounts.