Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fourth Report



44. Our principal conclusions and recommendations, other than those in the preceding section, are summarised below:

(a)We look forward to seeing a copy of the report of the Lord Chancellor's Legal Aid Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland to the Court Service on the case for a Contingency Legal Aid Fund in Northern Ireland, which we understand is expected to be produced at the end of June 2001. (Paragraph 25).
(b)Given that the Government clearly envisages that publicly-funded legal aid will play a proportionately smaller part in the future in the funding of legal actions, we welcome the proposed establishment of a working group to look into the establishment of financially viable and attractive legal insurance based solutions to provide an alternative to private or public funding of litigation for cases seeking financial damages. We note that this will include further examination of the use of Conditional Fee Agreements or a Contingency Legal Aid Fund. We also note the Government's assurance that this is not intended to lead to a reduction in legal aid spending, but will allow the Government to target spending on cases which cannot be run without subsidy. (Paragraph 27).
(c)We recommend that further consideration is given, in the context of the development of the Government's proposals, as to how best to ensure that adequate provision is available for supporting cases not seeking financial damages. (Paragraph 28).
(d)Lord Bach announced that the Funding Code would be laid before Parliament and that the initial Code would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. He envisaged that amendments to it would be subject to the negative procedure. However, given that experience and research may reveal a need for quite significant modification, we consider that there should be scope for modifications, too, to be subject to Parliamentary approval. We therefore commend to the Government, as an appropriate model, the provisions in the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 applicable to revision of the Parades Commission's Code of Conduct, procedural rules and guidelines. (Paragraph 31).
(e)The Government intends that the Legal Services Commission should initially set up in shadow form and £500,000 has been set aside to cover expenses in setting it up. Lord Bach was not able to give us a comprehensive assessment of the financial implications of the establishment of LSC. We would like an updated assessment to accompany the Government response to this Report. (Paragraph 40).

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