Fixed Fees to Liberal Professions
Delivered in Plenary 5th April 2001
I am speaking in the place of my colleague Lord Inglewood who has had to return to London at short notice. As a Liberal Professional myself (in my case a doctor) I have to say that my experience of fixed professional fees such as cremation fees and attendance at Coroners Courts is that they are artificially low and benefit the State rather than the professional. Politically I have recently been involved with asking the Commission to examinethe restriction applied by British Health Insurers to only paying medical fees for treatment provided within the UK. Last year I lobbied on behalf of a British lawyer wanting to register in France as a "Notaire" as non French Citizens as Notaires are currently prohibited by French Law and which is an activity governed in many member states by fixed fees.
Currently I am my Groups Shadow Rapporteur in EMAC on a proposed directive for a single market and free movement for Insurance mediators whose commissions are often fixed. The Single Market is one of the major achievements of the European Community, and for that Market to be complete it must include services as well as goods. We agree with Commissioner Bolkestein that ‘the services sector in Europe offers huge potential for growth, competition and employment’ which must be to all of Europe’s citizens’ benefit.
The Commission’s initiative in this area is one we strongly support, and we believe that, in accordance with so called ‘Single Market’ principles, business models for providing services pioneered successfully in one Member State, should be able to be introduced into another, and be subject to examination under the Treaty Rules on competition.
We are conscious of the need for there to be proper consumer protection across the Single Market. But we do suspect that many practices which have grown up over the years may have outlived some of their original usefulness. We believe, therefore, that it is very important that a thorough enquiry be conducted which will lead to a comprehensive debate so that special practices and privileges which may be attached to the exercise of the liberal professions are properly scrutinized, and not just for lawyers. It is necessary to ensure they still provide a real benefit to the citizen and are not merely privileges supporting the vested interests of the professions concerned.