John Stevenson: May I declare an interest? I am still a practising solicitor. I have been very interested to hear what my hon. Friend has had to say and I have a lot of sympathy with it. One thing he has not touched on is the Scottish system, which is distinct from the English system. Does he think there is some merit in looking at how the Scots do conveyancing, or does the way we do it in England just need reform rather than fundamental change?
Will Quince: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The Scottish system certainly has merit, but we should not see it as a panacea. It front-loads a lot of the obligations and costs on to the seller. In the current market, where properties sell easily and quickly, that process can work quite well. However, in a more stagnant market, where sellers are having to cover those costs up front, there is often a lot of frustration there. We should certainly look at the Scottish model, but we should not look only at that. Our system in England and Wales needs fundamental reform not just mirroring the Scottish system.
Technology may be part of the solution. People search online for a property and it is reasonable to expect that they would also like to contract and correspond online with their conveyancer if that speeds up the process —if I had a pound for every solicitor who still sends out letter after letter by post, I would be a very wealthy man. I am aware that systems such as Veyo and Free2Convey are in the pipeline, but I question whether they will actually fix the underlying issues in the process.
I very much welcome the plans of Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to undertake a call for evidence to explore options to deliver better value and to make the experience of buying a home more consumer friendly and I eagerly await that response. However, unless the Government are willing to change fundamentally our antiquated conveyancing process root and branch, we will not see the improvements that those buying and selling residential property are so desperate to see.