Lord Irvine climbs down on Law Society trade union fees

The Lord Chancellor has climbed down on his threat to abolish the Law Society's trade union function in the Access to Justice Bill.

Rather than accepting a back-bench amendment restricting the Society's use of practising fees to regulatory and training functions, Lord Irvine plans to give himself an enabling power in the Bill, allowing him to curtail its functions in the future.

The power, he says, will only be wielded after consultation with the Society and may only be exercised 18 months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. He has given the Society until 10 June to respond.

Society president Michael Mathews says he is “extremely concerned” at how fast the proposal is being pushed through, and has written to every solicitor on the Roll, seeking their views.

Law Society council member Michael Napier says: “This is a worrying threat that will have to be taken seriously. It is better for the Law Society to debate the issue itself and get it right, than have the Lord Chancellor thrust it down our throat and get it wrong.”

Lord Irvine's threat to accept the original amendment came just days after the Society launched its controversial “Justice Denied” advertising campaign.