Did Thatcher change the face of conveyancing?

Recently uncovered documentation dated from the 1980s released by the National Archives, has revealed former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fought against the government at the time, to allow solicitors working within banks, building societies and similar institutions, to carry out conveyancing services.

The Cabinet minutes which were dated from March 1985, document a discussion regarding a number of issues within the legal profession, with particular mention of this new policy which had previously been raised within the House of Commons.

A proposal had been formulated by the government which would allow employed solicitors to perform conveyancing services, without being in breach of compliance regulations. This was delivered in conjunction with the introduction of licenced conveyancers under the Administration of Justice Act 1985 legislation.

The government was said to have found it difficult to reach a decision on this policy, as it was deemed the change would cause a conflict of interest for employed solicitors. The solicitor general advised the Cabinet that the government couldn’t be accused of dishonourable conduct in this instance, as they were said to feel obliged to share the difficulties they faced. Thatcher later urged the Lord Chancellor to push for the rule to be formulated in a way that would counteract the apparent conflict.

Within the minutes of this particular discussion, it was also documented that the Prime Minister raised concerns over the ability of The Law Society to regulate the legal profession. The Cabinet called for the Lord Chancellor to address actions that could be taken in order to improve the efficiency and compliancy of solicitors, as well as complaints procedures against the profession. This was later to be reported to the Home and Social Affairs Committee for consideration.

To view the Cabinet minutes, please visit the National Archives website.

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