Parliamentary briefing: Professional Qualifications Bill – House of Lords second reading

This briefing outlines our views on the Professional Qualifications Bill, ahead of its second reading in the House of Lords on 25 May 2021.

Our position

The bill, which received its first reading in the Lords on 12 May, aims to create a new framework for recognising professional qualifications and experience gained overseas. It also reforms the practice of regulators.

We welcome the provisions in clauses 3 and 4 of the bill, which will help to bring about:

  • regulator-to-regulator mutual recognition agreements (MRAs)
  • the arrangements for recognising professional qualifications contained in free trade agreements (FTAs)

Key recommendations

We would 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 will form the benchmark for future FTAs.

Clauses 1 and 2 of the bill – which allow Westminster and devolved governments to let professionals with a foreign qualification practise in the UK as part of certain regulated professions, and are intended for use in case of a shortage – are unlikely to be applied to legal services.

However, the current wording could allow for government to apply clauses 1 and 2 to legal services if the Solicitors Regulation Authority (or other legal regulators) permitted it. This might in turn lead other bars to challenge the independence of the legal profession, affecting UK lawyers practising abroad.

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 to apply 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.

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.

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