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Important points have been made through the experience brought to bear on this debate by noble Lords who are perhaps trustees of organisations that have provided evidence, as well as through their practical experience, either in the judiciary or at the Bar. A lot of these come back to funding-a point made the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, when he moved the amendment. They are perhaps more appropriate to the issues around the funding orders, which were introduced on 3 October last year. Perhaps I may say something about these. They are not particularly germane to this amendment but they are germane to the debate that we have had. It was by way of these funding orders that the expert witness fees were codified for the first time. Historically, though guideline rates were published by the Legal Services Commission, rates of remuneration were effectively determined by the courts. This caused a range of issues for the LSC, not least spending control and data collection. The codification of rates is intended to address this issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and another noble Lord mentioned the difference between the codified rates in London and rates outside London. The codified rates were based on the benchmark or guidance rates applied by LSC caseworkers when assessing expert witness services as part of a solicitor's final bill, subject to a reduction of 10 per cent in line with the 10 per cent reduction that was being imposed on legal aid solicitors' fees. The benchmark rates were developed by experienced civil bill assessment staff at the LSC and were based on their experience of typical hourly rates charged by experts in their respective geographical regions. The rates reflect the LSC's experience that there is a greater supply of experts in London, which allows more competitive rates to be paid. The benchmark rates have been applied by the LSC for some time and there are only limited anecdotal reports of problems with access to experts. I assure your Lordships that the Ministry of Justice is working with the Legal Services Commission and stakeholders to monitor the effect of the fee levels and to gather further data to inform the Government's longer-term plans to put in place a scheme of fixed and graduated fees for experts.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, mentioned the Family Justice Review. The recommendations that have come out of that review are being looked at and will help to inform the development of a more detailed payments scheme for experts in the future. I will look at what the noble Earl said, as he may have made one or two further specific points. If I can reply to those points, I will certainly write to him.
I understand where many of the concerns are coming from in principle. However, as my noble friend Lord Faulks indicated, much of this matter is in the hands of the courts and some things are happening in this regard. However desirable the amendment might appear, it would be almost unworkable in practice and, indeed, would put the Lord Chancellor in an invidious position in trying to make quality assessments, which would not be appropriate to his role. Accordingly, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have spoken in the debate for their contributions and, indeed, to the Minister. I will not press the amendment to a vote. Even if the noble and learned Lord were disposed to accept the thrust of the amendment, legislation is not required to achieve its objectives. Nevertheless, it is somewhat disappointing that the objective of maintaining the supply of expert evidence is not apparently on the Government's agenda. It is one thing to arrange for an organisation-at present it is the Legal Services Commission-to determine fee levels on what looks to be a fairly crude and arbitrary basis. It is clear that neither the Lord Chancellor nor his department decides who should be included on any panel of approved experts. However, the Government are not even encouraging the formation of such panels comprising members of professional organisations who could evaluate whether a person was a competent specialist in his own field and was able to act as an expert witness. The latter is a different role. It is not necessarily the same as being an expert surgeon, psychiatrist or whatever. Giving evidence in the context of litigation is an additional skill which not everybody has or aspires to have, although the matter could be delegated. However, if the Government simply stand aside, as appears to be the case, it is not at all clear how the supply of relevant expert evidence can be secured.
This is a matter that will have to be returned to in the light of not only the financial aspects, which are clearly threatening to reduce the availability of witnesses with relevant experience and expertise, but the choice that is available to parties and courts. It is certainly necessary to be economical in these matters-that is absolutely accepted-but the danger is that we will end up with the worst of all possible worlds, with a reduced supply of people. That would damage the judicial process and sometimes the interests of, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, pointed out, vulnerable people-whether they are children or others-particularly, although not exclusively, in family matters, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, rightly reminded us.
Although I will seek leave to withdraw the amendment, this topic will not go away. It is one to which the courts, professional bodies and ultimately the Department of Health in the context of medical evidence-and perhaps departments in other areas, including that of the Lord Chancellor, who has responsibility for the judicial system as a whole-will have to revert at some point. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(a) the cost and impact of Part 1 on-
(i) children and young people;
(ii) people with disabilities, including people with learning, physical, mental and psychological disabilities;
(iv) victims of domestic violence;
(v) black and ethnic minorities;
(vi) government departments;
(vii) courts and tribunals, including any changes in time and resources; and
(viii) local authorities; and
(b) the impact of Part 1 on-
(i) the incidence of homelessness;
(ii) the incidence of ill-health or suicide;
(iii) the commission of criminal or anti-social behaviour; and
(iv) the future provision and availability of services including, but not limited to, law centres and citizens advice bureaux.
(2) The Lord Chancellor must lay a copy of the final report commissioned under subsection (1) in both Houses of Parliament at the same time as laying a draft revival order under section (Duration of Part 1)."
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I will be blessedly brief. The first of the two amendments in this group is the mirror image of my noble friend's previous amendment and calls for a post-commencement review of the impact of the changes proposed in the Bill after two years. It would provide for a report to be laid before Parliament. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord McNally, will say that it was always intended that there should be a post-implementation review. I accept that.
The second amendment in the group would create a more formal structure by proposing a sunset clause, whereby the provisions of Part 1 would lapse unless they were to be revived by an order. This would add teeth to the review process that the noble Lord will no doubt say would happen anyway. The provision would also add pressure to ensure that such a review would be thorough and comprehensive and allow Parliament to take a considered view of what, by any standards, would be significant changes to the legal aid system, regarding not only the effect on potential clients but the impact on government departments and public expenditure as a whole.
While the noble Lord constantly returns to the refrain about the difficult economic situation, which we all of course understand, it is certainly the view of many-I put it no higher-that the Government are transferring the burden from this department to elsewhere. They may also-according to the King's College report, at any rate-actually be increasing their financial expenditure rather than reducing it. Experience will tell us which way this will go-I hope within the period suggested. At that point it would, if the amendment were to be accepted, be open to the Government to table a resolution to continue with the scheme. Otherwise, if those of us who are sceptical about it prove to be right, the provisions would lapse, and therefore the savings would be made at that point, rather than ab initio, as the noble Lord believes will be the case. I beg to move.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is being a little optimistic. I am sure he willingly accepts that it is the responsibility of this House to scrutinise the Bill in all its aspects, but of course I will not detain the House a moment longer than is strictly necessary.
In our debate just now on the availability of appropriate experts to assist the courts, we heard about the importance of evidence-based judgments. The Government make much play of the importance that they attach to evidence-based policy-making. The amendment offers the Government an opportunity to establish that this policy, contentious as it is, if it is to be continued, should be properly based on evidence. That is why my noble friend Lord Beecham has proposed in the amendment the helpful suggestion that, two years after the commencement of Part 1, the Lord Chancellor must commission an independent review to assess various aspects of its provisions.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, offered as the principal justification for the Government's policies in the Bill that it is essential that the economy does not run out of control. Of course, we all agree with him on that. He then asked: if economies are not to be made in legal aid, where are they to be made? I would like to offer a handful of illustrative suggestions to the Government as to where they could more acceptably achieve economies. I take three examples at random.
If the Government were to abolish the tax relief at the top rate on pension contributions, they could save £7 billion annually. For the life of me, I cannot see that people who are enjoying that tax relief at the moment need incentivising. There we have an order of magnitude far beyond any economies that the Government hope to achieve through their reforms to the legal aid system.
I hope that it is not entirely unacceptable if I venture to suggest that out of the budget of £9 billion or so for the Olympic Games, there might have been scope to find some economy to protect legal aid for the most vulnerable in our society. Again, if that is an untouchable budget, let me suggest something else. The cost of bonuses paid by the Royal Bank of Scotland, a state-owned bank, to its executives is £785 million. That is at the discretion of the Government. So there are alternatives.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is very conscientious in how he seeks to acquit himself of the Ministry of Justice's responsibility to make its contribution to the reduction in the deficit. He says: if not legal aid, where? If it is to be legal aid, then, as my noble friends have repeatedly suggested, why could not the savings have been made to criminal legal aid? The answer that the noble Lord gave to that a little earlier was that already significant savings had been required from the criminal legal aid budget and it was therefore not timely or appropriate that further savings should be sought. My noble friend Lord Bach disagreed with him. He said that he, as a Minister, had foreseen clearly that there was significant further scope to make economies in the criminal legal aid budget. I have to say that it is a great pity, therefore, that the Government have proposed to make a reduction of only 8 per cent in that expenditure head, as opposed to the 53 per cent cut that they propose to make to support for impoverished appellants.
Lord Howarth of Newport: That certainly increases the case that I am rather lamely seeking to put forward. My noble friend is deeply expert in this field. It is, therefore, the more regrettable that the Government have sought to save only 8 per cent on the much larger criminal legal aid budget while taking 53 per cent from the funds provided to support people in poverty seeking to establish their claims for social welfare benefits.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, said in our earlier debate that there had been difficulties with the equality impact assessment. I think he argued that it was methodologically very difficult to pursue it to the point that we were arguing it should be taken to. However, we know from the evidence of that assessment, unsatisfactory as it was, that the effect of these cuts will be disproportionate on some of the most disadvantaged people-ethnic minorities and disabled people, for example. Although it was found to be intellectually too difficult to complete the investigation initiated in that assessment, it clearly established that the risks of social injury were very great, and I do not think that a more prudent Government would have wanted to go further down that avenue. I was pleased to hear from the Minister that there is going to be a revised equality impact assessment in the light of any amendments that may be made to the Bill and, moreover, that the Government intend that there should be another impact assessment-I think that that is what the noble Lord said-in due course. Therefore, the Government's thinking is beginning to concur with thinking on this side of the House.
If a post-commencement review is to take place two years after the commencement of Part 1 of the Bill, when enacted, there will by that time have been an opportunity to assess progress that may have been made in other regards to reduce the costs of the legal system and the courts, and that may leave a little more margin to restore legal aid to the levels that I am sure we would all wish to see it at. There are all sorts of ways in which costs in the system could be reduced in principle: the law could be made clearer and procedures could be made simpler. Perhaps lawyers could be paid less, although I do not think that lawyers doing legal aid work ought to be subjected to those kinds of savings. However, we could hope that there would be more pro bono work and that charities would provide more support to people in need. We could hope that the tribunals might indeed become more user-friendly, although I noted that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, in her Sir Henry Hodge Memorial Lecture earlier this year, discussing the question of whether tribunals could really be user-friendly, as their authors have always hoped they would be, and looking at the system of law they administer and the procedures that they developed in employment law and immigration cases, said that such a concept was, frankly, laughable. We might hope for better decision-making by public agencies so that fewer people have a need to appeal. We might also hope that alternative dispute resolution makes more progress, and that mediation, as the Government hope, will indeed lead to more expeditious and economical ways of resolving disputes.
All those things may develop and there may be progress, but I think it is unlikely in the extreme that we are going to see such appreciable economies or a system made so much more attractive and beneficial to disadvantaged people in those ways that we can reconcile ourselves to the loss of legal aid for welfare benefits claimants. Lord Bingham wrote judiciously in his book, The Rule of Law, that,
However, if we have the post-commencement review that my noble friend has asked for, we can look at the progress that has been made on all those fronts. As a corollary of having this review, I think that my noble friend Lord Beecham is right to propose that there should be a sunset clause and that Part 1 would need to be positively revived in the light of the evidence that would have become available by then. Therefore, I am very happy to support the amendments proposed by my noble friend.
Lord McNally: My Lords, let me make it absolutely clear from the start that my spirits are lifted when I see the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, rise to his feet. In all seriousness, I believe that he is a very effective parliamentarian. I say that as a compliment. He researches his interventions, his arguments are well marshalled, and it is always a pleasure to respond to him. That is particularly the case this evening, when we have had a glimpse of what might have been: the Howarth Chancellor of the Exchequer Budget. There would be all the savings and cuts and the only thing that would stop Chancellor Howarth getting the country a triple C rating would be the presence of a triple D rating. Nevertheless, it is always a pleasure to respond to him, and that is why I intend to take at least 25 minutes to deal precisely with the points that he has made.
As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, very frankly, pointed out, Amendment 7A would require a post-commencement impact assessment in the same terms as the pre-commencement impact assessment, which we discussed under Amendment 6. I do not propose to rehearse the same arguments again here, as the real issue of this amendment concerns its relationship with Amendment 161. That amendment would, as has been explained, place a time limit on the effect of the primary legislation, and any revival of its provisions would require the approval of both Houses.
I ask the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, to consider for a moment the legal, contractual and practical implications of the legal aid scheme under this Bill lasting for only three years unless Parliament's approval were reaffirmed at that point and thereafter annually. That would undermine the approval that Parliament may give by seeking re-approval inside a period shorter than most governmental terms. I do not really think that this proposition for a sunset clause in this Bill is practical. I hope that the noble Lord will reconsider the wisdom of this amendment and withdraw it.
One year after the commencement of Part 1 of this Act, the Lord Chancellor must commission an independent review to assess how the changes made in this Act and the Welfare Reform Act 2012 have affected-
(a) understanding by people who are entitled to benefits of-
(i) which benefits they may be entitled to; and
(ii) how to challenge (both review and any further rights of appeal) a decision made in respect of those benefits;
(b) access to, and provision of, legal advice about entitlement to benefits;
(c) the number and any increase in welfare benefit cases that are made or referred to-
(i) parliamentary constituency offices;
(ii) local authorities; and
(iii) other prescribed agencies; and
(d) the nature of the legal advice provided and resolution of such cases from the bodies listed in paragraph (c)."
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I trust that I have an equally wise amendment. For benefit recipients, their families, their advisers and the statutory services that support and assist such people-largely vulnerable people-the next 24 months will present challenges, difficulties and new hurdles. Rarely has there been such a mammoth change to the tax and benefit system, not to mention it happening with the parallel loss of professional advice to the people concerned if this Bill remains unamended. Of course, for the rich, as ever, there is no problem. I happened to read an advertisement in the current edition of Counsel, which for those of you who do not read it is the journal for barristers, which stated:
"Potentially up to £100,000 tax relief up for grabs: limited window ... to get back some of the 50% tax ... act before 5April ... New rules which received Royal Assent in July 2011 ... created an opportunity to claim tax relief on pension contributions ... made in the last few years ... the twist is ... these rules can be ... retrospective ... there are some hoops to jump through and therefore it is important that individuals ... seek advice".
Cheekily, the firm gives an e-mail address that starts, "barcouncil", although it cannot have offended the Bar Council too much as it ran the advert. Clearly, if you are well paid and can afford professional advice, that could be worth £100,000 to you.
My interest is not with such folk but with those seeking to challenge inaccurate assessments by HMRC's tax credit office or those for whom benefits may be their sole income-the difference between poverty and coping and the dividing line between surviving and drowning.
Benefits are changing, not simply with the loss of the discretionary Social Fund, about which the Minister and I have spoken, not simply with methods of payment changing from weekly to fortnightly or monthly, not simply in who the payments are made to; not simply in rules affecting those in work as well as those out of work, but in fundamental ways affecting the right to
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Some changes-to the number of hours rather than to the level of pay-will kick in from next month. For example, to qualify for working tax credit, couples with children will have to work 24 hours a week between them, not 16 as before; and one of them will have to work at least 16 hours a week. While the Government see this as reducing the disparity between couples and lone parents, who are required to work at least 16 hours a week, more than 800,000 people will be affected, and probably most of them will be unable to find more hours of work. With school holidays, piecework, overtime or fluctuating hours, new understanding of such rules will be imperative.
Also from next month, thousands of people in the work-related activity group for employment and support allowance will automatically lose their existing non-means tested benefits, having drawn them for 12 months-even those who are deemed unfit to work or who at present are not expected to work. Therefore, from April-and even more from next year with the introduction of universal credit-we will see a swathe of claimants struggling to understand the new system of benefits and faced with DWP staff who, with the best will in the world, will be equally unfamiliar with the new rules and regulations, and will also have to handle a new IT system.
In Committee on the welfare Bill, noble Lords across the House repeatedly stressed the importance of adequate training for DWP staff, particularly in the areas of mental health and fluctuating health conditions, and on top of demands for umpteen new protocols such as those on conditionality, which for the first time will affect those in work and not just the unemployed. Furthermore, there are large areas of discretion within the welfare Bill, for example on what counts as acceptable childcare or travel to work time, on whether the number of hours work can be increased, or on whether it is best to leave a tried and tested employer for a new one who will apparently pay more but who offers less security. Decision-makers will have to make a wide range of difficult judgments. If they are wrong, the impact on them will be slight, but the impact on the claimant may be colossal.
There will also be discretionary awards aplenty, particularly in housing. Some will be taken for the first time by local authorities, with no national guidelines and no experience to assist them, and with different rules on eligibility in different areas. Without good advice, how will the claimant know whether they qualify? This will be particularly the case in the first few years, as the new welfare system beds down. Will we expect claimants, many of whom have the lowest literacy levels, to pore through the regulations to see whether they apply to them? The denial of something to which they are entitled will not affect just the claimant. If as a result they are made homeless, they self-harm, their children go into care or they rack up debts and rent arrears, the chances are that it will be the NHS, social services or prisons that will pick up the tab.
There are significant new rules to be implemented, particularly on underoccupancy, where discretionary funds will be available to help the occasional carer to stay overnight, or perhaps provide an extra bedroom for a disabled child or for a family member with disturbed sleep patterns, or where the home must be significantly adapted for disabled access. However, to ask a vulnerable person to navigate their way through such applications, which have a profound effect, is to ask the impossible. The same will be true with the benefit cap, and particularly with housing advice. Although there will be exemptions where the client's home is at immediate risk, how is the client to know this in advance of getting advice?
Although we failed on the welfare Bill in a number of our attempts, for example to enable people to keep overpayments of benefit where they were the result of official error that they could not have known about, some decisions about that have been left to discretion. Without advice to the client as well as training for DWP staff, we are not going to achieve right-first-time decisions, and without those, the cost is not simply to the client but to the system with the appeals and everything that goes with them.
The Minister may say that this is not legal advice. I trust he does not because that would be very wrong. Especially with new regulations, a legal eye is needed to understand the significance of "may" as opposed to "should", and that "include" does not preclude other factors. As with the top end of barristers whom I quoted earlier, the significance of dates and timing needs pretty sophisticated understanding of the nuances. If the Bill is unamended, 135,000 welfare claimants are going to lose their access to advice.
The amendment does not deal with that. My amendment is about helping the Government to adjust their policy in the light of outcomes following Royal Assent. It is to provide the chance for joined-up government across Whitehall, or rather from Tothill Street to Victoria Street, by having an independent assessment, of the sort well used by the noble Lord, Lord Freud, in the Harrington review, looking at how claimants are able to obtain the benefits due to them, feed in the relevant decisions and get the right legal advice about benefits as well as at how providers, such as local authorities, or advisers, such as MPs, are feeling the effects of queries, complaints or difficulties with the new welfare system. This will be valuable intelligence. It will help the Government as well as other agencies. I hope the Minister can accept this. It is a way of looking at the interplay of these two changes to our system: the enormous Welfare Reform Bill and all its changes with, potentially, the lack of advice for exactly those who need to manoeuvre their way through that system. I beg to move.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, I have been encouraged so fulsomely by the Minister that I rise to contribute briefly to this debate and to support my noble friend Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, who moved this amendment. She is right to draw our attention and, more importantly, the Government's attention to the interaction between these two major pieces of legislation-this legal aid legislation and the welfare reform legislation-because they combine to impact
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There is no doubt that the case load of Members of Parliament in their constituency offices will increase. People who do not know where to turn for remedy will look around and think that they must at least go to their Member of Parliament to see what he or she can do to help. Members of Parliament will be extremely willing to do what they can, but most of them will certainly not be in a position to give legal advice, and I rather suspect that Members of Parliament who are lawyers will be reluctant to give advice in their capacity as lawyers to constituents who come to them at their constituency offices.
Members of Parliament listen to what their constituents have to say and give them the best practical advice they can. They will take up the case for them or refer them to the Minister or to other appropriate agencies, but there is a very strict limit to what Members of Parliament can do to sort out such problems on behalf of their constituents. I think we need to recognise that, and also that IPSA has pretty drastically squeezed the resources available to Members of Parliament. If the workload of MPs is going to rise, one very relevant consideration is just what resources will be available to MPs to help their constituents. Equally, local authorities face reductions in their funding of some 30 per cent over the spending review period, and so will be less well placed than they would wish to support local people who find themselves in difficulties.
For example, local people with housing problems may have a complaint about their landlord; the landlord is not keeping their accommodation in proper condition. People will no longer have access to legal aid to enable them to sort out these problems. They might turn to the environmental health officer but the environmental health officer may take a very long time before he or she can get around to their case.
The "other prescribed agencies" that my noble friend mentions in her amendment are presumably charitable organisations; we talked about that earlier. The Government's reduction to local authority funding is having a major knock-on impact on the funding that local authorities are able to provide for charitable bodies in their areas, including law centres and citizens advice bureaux. The effect of the recession is also squeezing the amount of income that is available to those agencies.
My noble friend does well to draw attention to some of these realities and I hope the Government will accept that there are problems here that they ought to review in the kind of way that my noble friend's amendment proposes.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I come in on an amendment
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What struck me in that particular debate on the Welfare Reform Bill was that it is surely folly to withdraw legal advice at the time that you are bedding in a new system of welfare benefits, which will probably have greater effect on claimants than anything since the Second World War. I do not know whether I have the Minister's attention but perhaps I could suggest to him that the one thing you do not do is withdraw legal advice about entitlement and eligibility at the very same time that you are introducing a major, vast set of changes to benefits.
As my noble friend Lady Hayter indicated, in discussions on the Welfare Reform Bill, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Freud, who had genuine respect for evidence, agreed to accept three major reviews post-implementation of the Bill: first, what would happen to private sector rented housing; secondly, what would happen to public sector rented housing; and thirdly, what would happen to disabled children. This is in respect of being informed by evidence and seeing what the effect of changes will be.
The Government are taking a leap into the dark on the Welfare Reform Bill and a leap into the dark on withdrawing the ability to seek legal advice at the time claimants are most likely to need it. At the very least, therefore, the Minister should follow in the footsteps of his noble friend Lord Freud and put in the basic safety net of a review to see whether the Government's expectations will be fulfilled.
Lord McNally: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to have an intervention from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. I hear what she says and of course I defer to the judgment of my noble friend Lord Freud about the Welfare Reform Bill. However, if she had been with us through the passage of this Bill, she would have seen the number of pre-legislative and post-legislative inquiries, independent reports, consultations-it does seem a little bit like overkill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has confessed that this is a second go at this issue, previously raised without success in the Welfare Reform Bill. This time around she would require the Lord Chancellor to conduct a review of the combined effects of Part 1 and what is now the Welfare Reform Act on a range of measures relating to advice provision and demand for advice.
I have the greatest regard for the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, so it is with some regret that I say we believe that her amendment is unnecessary. We have discussed at length similar impact assessments proposed under other amendments. Attributing the extent to which one Bill or another, or their combined effect, drove a particular outcome would be very difficult to achieve, and, we would argue, could not be answered with any degree of certainty. The amendment implies a very costly, broad and cumbersome exercise that would be highly unlikely to offer any real benefit given
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The Ministry of Justice is working hard to improve its evidence-base of legal aid clients and providers in order to get maximum benefit from the review process. Such a review is likely to consider the sorts of issues raised in this amendment. But we are not persuaded that the face of the Bill is an appropriate place in which to place such responsibility. I would therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: In thanking my noble friends Lady Hollis and Lord Howarth for their support, perhaps I may reassure my noble friend Lord Howarth that there will be no problem for Members of Parliament. The new elected senators or Members of the House of Lords can take up all these problems because they will have nothing else to do. I love constituency work. How it will go will be interesting. Anyone who has been elected knows that people first go to their local authority and to their councillors and then to become an MP. When I was working with MEPs, I saw it also went on to there.
This is one of the cheapest amendments one will ever get. The estimate is that for every £1 spent on legal aid on benefits advice the state saves more than £8. We are trying to give the Government the opportunity to have the evidence to change their minds. Given that there will be a post-legislative review, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Bach: I was not sure whether the Government were minded to adjourn the House now, it being 10 o'clock. Clause 8 has always taken a considerable amount of attention from those inside and outside the legal profession. People are very struck by the fact that it was very much a one-way ticket; namely, that the Lord Chancellor would have the power to take extra matters out from legal aid by regulation but not have the power to put them back in. Many people felt that that was very unsatisfactory.
The solution was to do it the other way around; namely, that he could put things into legal aid but could not take them out by regulation. But we see the virtues of the amendments, which are not quite the same in wording but come to the same thing, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and my noble friend Lord Hart. Although I will move my amendment, I would be more than happy to accept either of their amendments. I very much hope that the Government will be happy to accept one of their amendments. I beg to move.
Lord McNally: My Lords, the principles underpinning this Bill include the need to establish very clearly the scope of civil legal aid services. We need to ensure that the funding of the scheme is sustainable in the light of the historic expansion of the scheme and the cost to the taxpayer. We have made difficult choices in order to focus legal aid in our priorities and therefore we will resist amendments that seek to expand the scope of the scheme. However, I accept that a case has been made by my noble friends Lord Thomas and Lord Phillips, and indeed by the noble Lord, Lord Bach. If they do not press their amendments this evening, I give a clear undertaking to the House to bring back our own amendment at Third Reading which I think will meet the concerns that have been expressed. I can reassure noble Lords that the Government accept the amendments in principle in so far as they would provide the Lord Chancellor with a power to add new
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Lord Bach: It is only a question for me to decide whether to put my amendment to a vote, but I do not intend to do so. I can see one or two faces opposite looking anxious-or perhaps they look confident. It is only graceful from this side to thank the Minister for arranging this concession by the Government. It is much appreciated and we look forward to seeing the draft amendment when it comes forward. In the mean time, I seek the leave of the House to withdraw my amendment.
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