Law Soc set to lose power over asylum advisers

Home Secretary Jack Straw is to release a “radical” White Paper on immigration this month.

It is expected to include proposals to strip the Law Society of its powers to regulate solicitors dealing with immigration cases.

The Home Office paper is also expected to include welfare plans for asylum seekers, increased powers of detention and reforms of the initial stages of claiming asylum.

The government issued a consultation paper in January proposing to regulate all immigration advisers, including solicitors.

Last Thursday the Law Society voted to introduce its own accreditation scheme to make “further regulation of solicitors less likely”.

Last week, the Home Office took over total responsibility for services to asylum seekers from other government departments – although The Lawyer understands that the Home Secretary initially opposed this move. Straw accused solicitors and immigration advisers of “spinning out” cases and announced plans to fast-track asylum cases to a six-month period by allowing only a single appeal.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, gave the Home Office an extra £500m to fund its increased responsibilities in this month's comprehensive spending review.

Law Society immigration sub-committee secretary Richard Dunstan criticised the “extremely thin and weak” reforms to the asylum appeals process.

He said it was “probably sensible” for the Home Office to take responsibility for the whole asylum process, adding: “What we don't know is whether extra funding given to the Home Office for this will be adequate.”