New regulations for accountants

ACCOUNTANTS AND other professionals such as lawyers and surveyors are to be allowed to improve their protection against large legal claims by forming limited liability partnerships under government proposals issued yesterday.

The move was accompanied by plans to introduce a more independent form of regulation for the accountancy profession, which has been criticised since the last recession for not being seen to deal swiftly or sufficiently with members who fail to meet standards.

Peter Mandelson, the Trade and Industry Secretary, intends that the scheme - largely based on proposals put forward by a team led by Chris Swinson, now president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants - will be introduced next year and will cover the entire accountancy profession.

Mr Mandelson said the proposals would "ensure transparent and robustly independent regulation, to be delivered in partnership with the profession". He said disciplinary cases with a public interest would be conducted by bodies largely made up of non-accountants.

The limited liability partnerships plan heads off threats by some firms to set up in offshore centres. It is likely to meet with some criticism, but ministers stress it will only protect innocent partners by limiting their liability to their stake in the firm. The legal liability of the firm and negligent partners will be unaffected.

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