Lord Mishcon moves to block Lord Irvine in Bill

Labour peer, Lord Mishcon QC plans to introduce an amendment to the Access to Justice Bill designed to vanquish the “Sword of Damocles” held by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine over the Law Society's trade union role.

As the Access to Justice Bill went through its report stage in the Commons, an amendment was introduced giving Lord Irvine the power to restrict the Law Society's functions to a regulatory role.

But Lord Mishcon plans to defy the Lord Chancellor and introduce an amendment to the bill when it returns to the House of Lords next week.

The amendment will give the Law Society more flexibility than that envisaged by Lord Irvine, including “work in the public interest”.

Lord Irvine's decision to cut the Law Society's powers came just days after its high-profile advertising campaign attacking proposed cuts in legal aid.

The Law Society's Parliamentary Unit head John Ludlow admits that even if Lord Mishcon's amendment goes through, the Law Society's role will probably be narrower than it is now.

“It all depends on the interpretation of public interest. It could stop us doing high profile advertising campaigns so it does represent something of a compromise.

“It's better than having the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” Ludlow says.