Family legal aid reform: further Government response to the Committee's Eighth Report of Session 2008-09 - Justice Committee Contents

First Special Report

The Justice Committee published its Eighth Report of Session 2008-09 on Family legal aid reform on Wednesday 15 July 2009 (HC 714).

Since then the Government has responded in a number of ways.

—  On 20 July 2009, Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice, and responsible for legal aid, announced that he was deferring his decision on the way ahead for family legal aid subject to further work.[1]

—  On 14 September 2009, Lord Bach wrote to the Committee saying that—while he felt it was right, in principle, to proceed with a harmonised family advocacy scheme—it was important to ensure that the models, and underpinning assumptions, were accurate and that the Legal Services Commission was working with the legal professions on the detail and a good deal of progress had been made in recognising and rewarding complexity within a revised scheme (but that he intended no further public consultation).[2]

—  On 13 October 2009, The Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, announced a review, led by Sir Ian Magee, of the existing delivery and governance arrangements of the legal aid system (including options for separating the Criminal Defence Service and the Community Legal Service).[3]

—  On 21 October 2009, Lord Bach announced that more graduation had been introduced into the family legal aid fee scheme structure to reward fairly those advocates undertaking the more difficult and complicated cases and that independent social work in private law cases would continue to be eligible for legal aid funding. He described the reforms as a move of some funding from barristers to solicitor advocates (as barristers and solicitor advocates will now receive the same fees for the same work) and as cost-neutral against average case costs in 2007-08.[4]

Most recently, 29 November 2009, the Committee received a further response from the Government in the form of a letter from Lord Bach to the Chairman of the Committee which is appended below.

1   Written Ministerial Statement, 20 July 2009, Official Report, col. WS 156 Back

2   Fifth Special Report, Justice Committee, Session 2008-09, HC 1018 Back

3   Written Ministerial Statement, 13 October 2009, Official Report, col WS 23  Back

4   Written Ministerial Statement, 21 October 2009, Official Report, col. WS 65 Back

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Prepared 16 December 2009