This is the result of a three-year battle following a freedom of information request by IFA Defence Union chairman Evan Owen in 2005.
The Information Tribunal dismissed an appeal made by HM Treasury against an ICO decision notice issued on May 22, 2007 which required the Government to confirm or deny that it had received law officers’ advice.
The Government has until mid-June to decide whether to appeal to the High Court.
The tribunal dismissed the Government’s argument that it might be exposed to criticism if it were known that it had not consulted the law officers on a particular matter.
Owen says: “This is a victory for common sense against all odds. The Information Commissioner agreed with me that we have a right to know whether Gordon Brown had obtained any legal opinion supporting his declaration that the Financial Services and Markets Bill was compatible with article 6 or the Human Rights Act 1998.
“The Treasury made an appeal to the Information Tribunal who have now dismissed it, more than three years after the FOI request was made. This is one small step for IFAs, a leap forward for our campaign.”
Owen says if the Treasury has not had any external legal opinion on the matter, then the adviser market must press for a review of the FSMA 2000.
Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says the disclosure could be extremely important for advisers. “If it is found that Brown did not take legal advice, then theoretically the Financial Ombudsman Service may have to reopen all the cases where it did not apply the 15-year long stop. There is a lot of money that would have been paid out illegally.”