Accountants to face tougher training rules

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BRITAIN's institutes of chartered accountants plan to abolish their members' longstanding automatic right to practise as part of sweeping reforms aimed at raising professional standards.

The 25 proposals are contained in a wide-ranging consultative paper, Professional Standards Review - the Approach to Quality, published today and based on the report of the Professional Standards Review Working Party drawn from the English, Scottish and Irish institutes.

Other proposals include abolishing exemptions from training and requiring all accountants who want to set up in sole practice to attend a course. The recommendations, which are likely to raise firms' costs, are expected to cause concern among the memberships, particularly small and sole practitioners, who feel increasingly burdened by regulations and their costs at a time of increasing competition. However, Roger Lawson, president of the English institute, says in a letter being sent with the document that it represents a 'pragmatic response to the central dilemma' facing the profession.

Abolition of the automatic entitlement of those who became members before 1974 to a certificate and exemption from continuing professional education is expected to create the biggest controversy.

Bruce Picking, director of the English institute's practice regulation department who served as secretary to the working party, said the change could be justified as a move 'away from past attainment to current competence'.

Since some of the recommendations may require a bye-law change that will have to be voted on, they are unlikely to come into force before 1996.