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Baroness Barker: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her very full and considered answer. I listened to what she said very closely. The issue we still have between us is on the importance of ensuring that people have quick and easy access, not to legal advice but to specialist legal advice. She will know, because she took part in our debates in Committee, that the success of the Resolve pilot and the speedy resolution schemeand one of the key things that made them attractive to people as an alternative to going down the route of litigation, which remains open to most peoplewas that they would have easy access to people with that particular background.
The comments made in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, about the Community Legal Service quality mark have been, to some extent, reiterated by the noble Baroness. He pointed out that the CLS quality mark applies to organisations such as legal practices and not to individuals. Therefore I am not convinced that what the noble Baroness has said makes the scheme as it stands sufficiently attractive to persuade people that it is a more beneficial route for them because it will not just be quick but will also have within it that specialist knowledge.
The noble Baroness questioned who these people would be. We have left that matter open, not least because this is a specialist field, but because it is possible that practitioners or people who currently work in it could come within the overall ambit of the scheme. I do not accept many of her arguments. If we do not in some way get the Resolve-type pilots back into this scheme, then the crucial thing that was good about themthe learning that came from having all that legal advice and people there working togetherwill be lost, and not just to patients. It will also be lost to trusts. It is important to test the opinion of the House on this matter.
"( ) A scheme must provide that where a settlement agreement relates to a child or an incapacitated adult (as defined by Part 21.1(2) of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (S.I. 1998/3132)) and includes the payment of financial compensation, the agreement is subject to the approval of the court."
The noble Earl said: My Lords, we return to an amendment that I tabled in Grand Committee which, in common with a similar amendment tabled by the Liberal Democrats, covered the issue of children and incapacitated adults who are offered a settlement of the claim under the redress scheme. My contention was and is that there should be a specific requirement in the Bill that any such settlement agreement offered to a child or incapacitated adult should be approved by the court before it is concluded. Indeed, where appropriate, it should be for the court to invest and manage any funds on behalf of that person.
In Grand Committee, the Minister said that he had no quarrel with the intention behind the amendment and that it was the Government's intention to incorporate the substance of the amendment into the scheme. I welcome that assurance. However, we are dealing here with a fundamental legal principle. Any child or adult who is unable to deal with his or her own legal affairs and has assets of value is protected from unscrupulous adults who may use those assets for their own benefit. The amendment is designed to ensure that such people have exactly the same protection under the redress scheme. That is not an onerous obligation. The procedures employed by the courts for dealing with such applications are designed to operate with the minimum of formal requirements.
I believe that no issue of principle divides us on this, but the noble Baroness may like to note that when I met the Law Society, it was adamant that, in its view, this was an issue of such importance as to warrant
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being written into the Bill, not simply regulations. From a body of the standing of the Law Society, I take that message to heart and I therefore beg to move.
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