Professional Qualifications Bill
The stated aim of the Professional Qualifications Bill is to create a new framework for recognising professional qualifications and experience gained overseas. It also reforms the practice of regulators.
Clauses 1 and 2 of the bill:
- allow Westminster and devolved governments to enable professionals with a foreign qualification to practise as part of a certain regulated profession in the UK
- are intended to be used in case of a shortage and are unlikely to be applied to legal services
Clauses 3 and 4 of the bill will help to bring about:
- regulator-to-regulator mutual recognition agreements (MRAs)
- arrangements for the recognition of professional qualifications contained in free trade agreements (FTAs)
Clauses 5 and 6 are necessary legislative measures to revoke the EU system of recognition of overseas qualifications and any other retained EU law on the issue.
Clauses 7 to 10 are of primary interest to regulators.
The Law Society welcomes the provisions in Clauses 3 and 4 of the bill. We'd encourage the government to provide support, coordination and guidance on how to make the most of the MRA provisions contained in the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, particularly if this is to form the benchmark for future FTAs.
We welcome the government’s engagement on regulator autonomy and its response to feedback through several amendments. However, the wording of these amendments could still allow for government to apply clauses 1 and 2 to legal services if the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or other legal regulators permitted it.
Should discussions on legal services occur, we're eager to continue to be involved in regulatory dialogue on MRAs, given our expertise in these matters.
The requirements for application for recognition of qualifications can be lengthy. We would encourage the acceptance of digital documents where possible, in line with our position on trade agreements and market access in general.
What this means for solicitors
If clauses 1 and 2 are applied to legal services, this may in turn lead to the independence of the legal profession being challenged by other bars, affecting UK lawyers practising abroad.
What we’re doing
November 2021 – we put together a briefing ahead of report debate in the House of Lords
May 2021 – we put together a briefing ahead of second reading and committee debates in the House of Lords