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Shatter faces retreat on law reform

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is coming under pressure from the Labour Party to water down his controversial plans to overhaul the legal profession.

It is understood Labour has produced an alternative document aimed at diluting some of the more far-reaching proposals by the Justice Minister.

On Tuesday, Mr Shatter secured Government approval to published the Legal Services Regulation Bill.

However, Coalition partners Labour have put together alternative proposals after concerns were expressed to party leader Eamon Gilmore about the independence of a new regulator.

This came about after senior members of the party analysed the proposed bill tabled by Mr Shatter.

There were also concerns raised about lawyers forming partnerships with other professionals and allowing solicitors to hold on to clients' files until they are paid.

Mr Gilmore has also produced his own private document, Tanaiste's Observations, outlining his concerns about the possible effects of the laws, which will strip the Law Society and Bar Council -- the representative bodies for solicitors and barristers -- of their power to regulate the profession.

The Labour Party document was produced after Mr Shatter first brought his draft bill, running to more than 350 pages, to the Cabinet last month.



Concerns

The bill, which may not be passed for another 18 months, owing to its size and possible impact, has since been reduced to 260 pages and includes some concessions secured by Labour.

The Tanaiste Mr Gilmore, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton all raised concerns about the contents of the bill following the initial Cabinet meeting several weeks ago.

Mr Shatter argued in favour of the bill for more than an hour at the meeting, which prompted Labour to work on its own redrafts.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted that "there is no rift" in Cabinet over the contents of the bill, which will give effect to key reforms included in the Programme for National Recovery and reforms agreed with the EU, ECB and IMF. The bill will be published later this week.

See Pages 14 and 15