Bar Council to cross swords with Labour over reforms

Shadow Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg was expected to warn barristers not to expect favours from a Labour government at the Bar Council conference at the weekend.

Labour, which holds its conference in Blackpool this week, has said it will refer the legal profession to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to investigate the Bar and the Law Society's current outlawing of multidisciplinary practices. It also wants barristers to have direct access to clients, rather than by referral from solicitors.

The Bar will publish a response to Labour's proposals at the conference, underlining its opposition to MDPs and to direct access. The paper was also expected to attack the Conservative government's proposal to block contract and cap legal aid as misconceived and lacking in quality control mechanisms.

A council spokesman said a referral to the MMC would be “discriminatory against the Bar”. He said the Law Society had full-time professionals to make its case, but the Bar had a small secretariat.

“We'd have to give up time we spend on reforms that Labour has encouraged, like the pro bono register, to present our case to the MMC.”