Law Society’s guidance does not change the law

The Government has side-stepped a growing row over contentious advice about how to draw up wills that comply with Sharia law.

The Law Society provoked a storm of controversy earlier this year when it issued guidance on how to draft a document which meets the requirements of the traditional Muslim code.

The solicitors’ regulation body said that the advice, the first of its kind, was designed so that members could assist clients from all backgrounds.

But it drew fierce criticism from the National Secular Society, who claimed that the move endorsed a system which penalised women and people who didn’t follow the Islamic faith.

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director, said: “The UK has the most comprehensive equality laws in the world, yet the Law Society seems determined to undermine this by giving approval to a system that relegates women, non-Muslims and children born out of wedlock to second class citizenship.”

This week Justice minister Shailesh Vara refused to be drawn into the row, but said that the guidance “does not, and cannot, change the law.”

He said the Government had not had any discussions with the Law Society about their practice note and that MPs would not assess whether the guidance breached equalities legislation, arguing that the way the law is interpreted is a matter for the courts.