Update on the All Party Parliamentary Group's meetings on Legal aid in the New Year. "The first meeting will be on Tuesday 22 January 2013 at 4pm – 5.30pm in Committee Room 10 at the House of Commons. Lord McNally has kindly agreed to address the meeting.
The second meeting will be on Wednesday 13 February 2013 at 4pm – 5.30pm in Committee Room 9 at the House of Commons. The theme will be “Life after the legal aid cuts – social welfare law”. Speakers will be confirmed soon.
We will send out further information nearer the time if any of these details change.
We would be grateful if you could let us know if you plan to attend one or both of these meetings. Please email email@example.com quoting "APG on legal aid" and the date/s of the meetings in the subject line.
You may also like to read this briefing from Resolution on the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012, which were laid before Parliament on 17 December 2012. "
Change in the time of meeting of APPG on 22.1.13 details from LAPG -Lord McNally speaking
"As you are aware, Lord McNally has kindly agreed to address the meeting of the All-Party Group on 22 January 2013. Due to his ministerial commitments, Lord McNally has requested that we change the time of the meeting from 4pm to 5.15pm.
The meeting will therefore now be at 5.15pm in committee room 9 at the House of Commons.
It can take some time to get through security at Parliament so please do aim to arrive by 5 to get to the committee room by 5.15.
If you have already replied to let us know that you will be attending, we will assume that you can still attend unless you tell us otherwise. If you have not already confirmed, we would be grateful if you could email firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting “APG on Legal Aid” and the meeting date in the subject line."
LCF are tweeting the meeting with McNally if anyone wants to follow it link below. Here are some samples tweets "1. 3m Law Centres Network þ@LawCentres McNally seems to suggest that there is no point in considering #legalaid scope changes before the #LASPO post-implementation review 2. 8m Law Centres Network þ@LawCentres Under what circumstances might MoJ bring matters back into scope of #legalaid? McNally mentions #LASPO post-implementation review in 3-5 yrs 3. 21m Law Centres Network þ@LawCentres McNally: #LASPO is now an Act and the start, rather than the conclusion, of a process of reforming #legalaid 4. 26m Law Centres Network þ@LawCentres McNally: publicly funded legal services important but #legalaid has been under review for a while. Must focus resources on greatest need 5. 29m Law Centres Network þ@LawCentres McNally at APPG starts with background: MoJ needing to cut ~£2bn overall, of which ~£350m from #legalaid 'and that's what #LASPO was about' "
LAPG have circulated minutes of the last meeting with Lord McNally-below
"All-Party Group on Legal Aid: Meeting with Lord McNally 22 January 2013, Committee Room 7, House of Commons 1. Chairs: Yvonne Fovargue MP and Lord Bach. 2. Speaker: Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords. Lord McNally’s address 3. Lord McNally has kindly provided us with the text of his speech. Where Lord McNally added to this during delivery of the speech, we have included extra notes. 4. Lord McNally: Thank you for inviting me here to speak today. I welcome the opportunity to have a frank discussion about the Government’s current reforms and future plans for legal aid. 5. Let me start by saying that I continue to believe profoundly in the importance of fundamental rights of access to justice. The availability of publicly funded legal services is important in protecting the rights of the marginalised and ensuring access to fair trials. However, the legal aid system was unsustainable and in need of reform. 6. The system has grown significantly beyond its original purpose and has played a part in increasing the reliance on courts as means of resolving disputes. 7. The current fiscal situation has further compounded this need for reform and has forced us to make very difficult choices about what we will continue to fund. 8. [Lord McNally also noted that the Ministry of Justice had taken a 23% cut in its budget – roughly £2 billion from a budget of £10 billion – and that £350 million had been cut from legal aid. He added that successive governments had made cuts to legal aid]. 9. The Government has had to make difficult decisions across the board, to focus resources on those who need it the most, for the most serious cases in which legal advice or representation is justified. These considerations were examined, debated and settled during the passage of the LASPO Act. 10. Further implementing legislation will be laid between now and March. As many as another dozen statutory instruments will need to be made, some subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, others to the negative procedure. 11. Parliament’s oversight of these statutory instruments will provide an opportunity to examine our approach to implementation and hopefully to clarify any misunderstandings. 12. These statutory instruments largely replicate the existing framework. Where they add additional detail to our policy approach in specific areas, they reflect what was agreed during the passage of LASPO. 2 13. The measures in LASPO represent the start of the reform process and not the end. 14. We need to ensure that the legal services market adapts to the changing environment, and that it continues to offer products and services that support people in resolving their disputes and protecting their rights. 15. First, I would like to say a few words about what we are doing to support dispute resolution methods as alternatives to court. 16. Secondly, I want to talk about the Government’s plans to make more efficient use of public money in the legal aid system. We have long been committed to exploring the use of price competition in the delivery of legal aid services. 17. A sensible starting point in ensuring that scarce resources are targeted effectively is to make sure that the involvement of lawyers and courts is always the last rather than the first resort. 18. Access to justice is not necessarily the same as access to a lawyer. Greater use of mediation, for example, can help families resolve differences without the need for expensive and lengthy court proceedings. 19. There is also work to be done on simplifying and streamlining court processes. The Family Justice Review provided a number of recommendations to make the system easier to navigate: introducing a single family court and changing courts processes, so they are easier to understand and quicker, for example. 20. I will be looking in more detail at ways of reducing the extent to which people have to rely on legal professionals to resolve their disputes. 21. We are also conscious of the impact on those people who will no longer be eligible for legal aid, once the reductions in the scope of the scheme take effect. 22. We are currently developing a new online Legal Aid Information Service, which will begin in April 2013. It will assist members of the public in determining whether they are eligible for legal aid, and most importantly, where they are not, it will signpost them to alternative sources of information and assistance to help them resolve their problems. We are working closely with a number of advice organisations to ensure that the new service is designed with the needs of the user at its heart. 23. As you know, the Government is still keen to explore the use of competition in public services as a means of increasing efficiency and quality. And the Justice Secretary and I are keen to look at what could be achieved in the legal aid market. 24. [Lord McNally also said that although legal aid had originally been intended in 1948 to become something like the NHS, in those days only 5% of marriages ended in divorce. The original system had not had to cope with the huge demands placed on it today.] 25. Criminal legal aid represents a significant proportion of the Ministry of Justice’s annual expenditure – £1.1 billion out of £8.7 billion last year. So we need to ensure long-term 3 sustainability, quality and value for money for the taxpayer in its provision. I’m not starry eyed about price competition but I do believe that it could make a real contribution to achieving this. 26. I recognise that such a systemic change to the way criminal legal aid services are procured is a cause for significant anxiety for providers. Rest assured we will be listening to providers of all types, large and small, rural and urban, solicitors and advocates. 27. [Lord McNally added that the civil courts needed to move from an adversarial to a more inquisitorial model. He mentioned that in Germany, insurance is often used to fund cases, though he noted that those most likely to need help with paying for cases previously funded by legal aid in the UK are highly unlikely to have taken insurance. 28. He also said that he hoped that it would be possible to achieve some kind of cross-party consensus on the appropriate level for legal aid, to avoid further cuts by future governments. However, he noted that the economic realities are still very severe, and wondered whether the power to bring areas back into the scope of legal aid would be used any time soon.] 29. Thank you. Discussion 30. James Sandbach (Citizens Advice) asked what would be the trigger for use of the mechanism in section 9 (2) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) to bring areas of law back within the scope of legal aid, which had been added as an amendment during the progression of the Bill through Parliament. He also said that he felt the current legal aid system to be heavily focused on central government, which did not engage with local communities. 31. Lord McNally replied that in relation to the amendment, that he felt it had been a very important change to the Bill. It had provided a relatively easy way for a “second look” at LASPO if things were not right. However, he felt that LASPO would need time to settle. There would be a review of the Act in three to five years’ time. Bringing anything back into scope would depend on impact and cost. Regarding James Sandbach’s point about local services, he replied that the Ministry of Justice had a national budget which was constantly in negotiation with the Treasury. There had to be national standards and procedures but this did not mean that there was no scope for local initiative. 32. Richard Miller (Law Society) noted the recent comments made by Chris Grayling concerning highly-paid advocates in criminal legal aid cases. Richard Miller said that the Law Society felt that there must always be adequate payment, though at the top end levels should perhaps be looked at again. The Law Society would engage constructively. He then mentioned appeals on points of law in first-tier tribunal welfare benefits cases. He said that it was disappointing, given Ken Clarke’s assurances during the passage of the Bill, that nothing had been done about this issue. There needed to be some mechanism, particularly to help the seriously ill and those with long-term disabilities. Richard Miller made the suggestion that if the Tribunal wanted a representative from the DWP to be present then that determination would be a sensible trigger for funding for the claimant. Another suggestion was that if the 4 determination of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were proved to be wrong, the Department should meet the costs of the appeal. 33. Lord McNally replied that these were interesting thoughts but he was not able to respond then and there. He was not sure if DWP would like these ideas. He and Lord Bach had debated the issue of first-tier tribunals. Although Lord McNally acknowledged ministerial responsibility, he said that Ken Clarke had two strongly-held beliefs: that criminal legal aid had to be protected because a person’s liberty and reputation were at stake, and that welfare benefits cases were about money, which was less important. That was why the welfare process had taken such a major hit from LASPO. Another Government might (although he emphasised the might) not have done this. He added that he would take back Richard Miller’s second idea for consideration. Qualified one-way cost-shifting of this type might become more widely used. The Leveson Report had suggested that this should extend to defamation. Regarding highly-paid advocates, his Lordship said that although he was not himself a lawyer, after two and a half years in his current position, he was aware of the different levels of payment for barristers. The legal profession was in the midst of change, of which legal aid was one example. Those who survived would be the ones who could adapt. He noted that some of the highest-paid barristers received around £500, 000 (as set out in answers to Freedom of Information requests) but that competition might reduce this. The profession needed to adjust. 34. Maggie Ellis (London School of Economics) said that payment of professionals was of particular concern to her. Despite the existence of payscales, occupational therapists had been told that they would receive lower pay than others. This raised quality concerns. 35. Kevin Westall (Ministry of Justice) clarified for the audience that this was about rates of pay for expert advisers. There had been a 10% cut to reflect the overall policy. This represented what the Department could afford. However, where an expert had particular seniority, there was scope to exceed the rates. 36. Alison Harvey (Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association) raised the question of what would happen to separated children without asylum who were threatened with removal from the country. This remained an issue that had not been resolved. The previous Minister with responsibility for Legal Aid, Jonathan Djanogly, had once suggested (without prior briefing) that representation could come from social workers, but this idea had not been supported by the UK Border Agency. These children could not represent themselves and needed legal aid. From April 1st 2013 they would not get it. These cases needed to come back into scope. 37. Lord McNally asked about the role of social workers in this area. 38. Alison Harvey replied that social workers were involved to varying degrees (usually under section 20 of the Children Act 1989 rather than section 31). However, support from social services was often discontinued at around age 17 and a half – the age when decisions were made as to whether the children should be removed. Social workers had said they were not able do the legal work and the Local Government Association agreed. The Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner had also said that this was not a solution. There would be an official Home Office note of the meeting where this was discussed. 5 39. Lord McNally said that he would welcome being sent information from the Home Office on this. 40. Andrew Tucker (Ministry of Justice) said that the Ministry was currently having discussions with the Home Office about how to deal with this issue. No conclusions had yet been reached. 41. Christina Blacklaws (The Co-operative Legal Services Ltd) asked about the criteria for evidence of domestic violence in civil legal aid cases in the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012. She said that the criteria relied on the victim having reported the domestic violence, but victims often felt reluctant about doing so. It might be very difficult for them to convince a GP at a later time to prepare a report for them. GPs might also charge for this, and might not understand what was required of them in terms of the content of the report. Solicitors could not take a case without the evidence – this constituted a bar to access. Could the cost of medical reports not be funded by the legal aid scheme? 42. Lord McNally said that throughout the debate on the domestic violence evidence requirements, he had been determined to get it right. Although Christina Blacklaws had referred specifically to GPs, this was one of a list permissible ways of obtaining evidence. He added that the Government could not prevent doctors from charging for medical evidence. He understood why those involved in campaigning on domestic violence issues had raised these points, but he was concerned that their campaigns might have made people believe that legal aid was not available at all any more for domestic violence victims. He also thought that the new range of cheaper legal advice in family law cases from providers such as the Co-op would help. 43. Steve Hynes (Legal Action Group) referred again to advocates’ fees and said that it could not be right to bring down defence barristers’ fees while leaving prosecutors’ fees high. He added that he had felt encouraged by Lord McNally’s comments on finding a cross-party consensus on an appropriate level of legal aid. He noted that those who are poor are unlikely to take out insurance policies to pay for legal cases, and that these might not cover cases against the Government. Very often, the Government did make the wrong the decision at first. There had to be a way of resolving this – currently people were not getting a fair deal. 44. Lord McNally said regarding payment for advocates that there needed to be a debate on this. Chris Grayling liked to float ideas and see the response. The State could not insist on a “Rolls Royce” service for itself but deny this to others – there had to be equality of arms. He went on to say that there needed to be a fundamental discussion of how legal aid should be used. He noted that Lord Justice Munby had said in his recent inaugural speech as President of the Family Division that although legal aid was very important, the public purse was not unlimited and resources must not be squandered. Lord McNally added that engaging with the legal profession at the moment was like talking to members of the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1970s. The profession was moving and everyone needed to join the debate. However, to continue to cut legal aid would not be the right option. Successive cuts could not continue to be made at the current rate. This would “destroy and demoralise” the system. Adding “polluter pays” aspects to the system would be a good idea. The system was continuing to face challenges from those who did not see its importance (as he did). On a 6 recent visit to Australia he had met with Ministers from Australia and New Zealand who said that their legal aid systems were suffering under the same pressures. 45. Deborah McIlveen (Women’s Aid) acknowledged that GPs’ reports were not the only forms of evidence of domestic violence permitted by the Procedure Regulations. However, many of the other forms raised other problems e.g. evidence of use of the criminal justice system – how would that be obtained? Very few people will attend a MARAC. Very few will meet the refuge requirement. Most of the forms of evidence were unobtainable for a lot of victims. 46. A representative from the Ministry of Justice noted that a 24-hour stay in a refuge was included. 47. Lord McNally said that the Government’s frank objective had been to avoid a situation where clients were invited by solicitors to imply domestic violence in order to obtain legal aid. 48. Thomas Hamilton-Shaw, a policy adviser from the Red Cross, said that it would not now be possible to obtain legal aid to help bring one’s family members into the UK. Was the Government prepared for a potential challenge on this on the grounds of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to private and family life)? 49. Lord McNally replied that the legislation had been scrutinised on human rights grounds, as all UK legislation was, prior to being passed. It would only be found to be in breach if a case were to be brought successfully. 50. Matt Bryant (Resolution) asked when it would receive the draft guidance. 51. A representative from the Ministry of Justice replied that the guidance would be available by the time the new scheme came in. 52. Lord McNally said that he had met yesterday with the Family Justice Council. He added that he hoped that the family system could be made simpler. Alternative Dispute Resolution would not answer every case but it had a part to play. 53. Matthew Smerdon (Baring Foundation) said that although LASPO aimed to reduce the deficit, in fact it had been frequently demonstrated that the cuts were likely to create more problems which would cost more money to solve. Welfare reform and universal credit were likely to increase demand for social welfare law services even more. Could Lord McNally be more specific about a cross-party consensus? Was there a case for a national fund for social welfare law from different government departments? 54. Carol Storer added that many people were concerned about the new telephone Gateway. LAPG has asked the MoJ a number of questions about the gateway and she asked for representative bodies to be brought into discussions on information which goes to the public on the gateway. 55. Lord McNally said that a lot of judgement had been invested in the Gateway. He wanted to make it work and would be happy to receive suggestions. Regarding inter-departmental co- 7 operation, he said that this was always a problem in government as each department had its own budget. Arguments that a particular budget increase for one department would save money for another were not usually favourably received. He did not know how a levy on each department would work. He added that universal credit might have surprising benefits – at the moment people were focusing on the dangers. 56. Kevin Westall (Ministry of Justice) said that the Ministry would respond to concerns about the telephone Gateway and was particularly interested in hearing about operational problems. 57. Lord Bach closed the meeting and thanked Lord McNally and everyone who had attended."
Further to first post today above LAPG have also confirmed dates for the next 2 All Party Parliamentary Legal Aid Group meetings
"The first will be on Wednesday 13 February at 4pm in Committee Room 9 of the House of Commons. The subject will be “Life after the legal aid cuts – social welfare law”. There will be a range of speakers, including Lord Low of Dalston. If you wish to attend, we would be grateful if you could let us know by replying to this email.
The second will be on Wednesday 20 March at 4pm in Committee Room 9 of the House of Commons. The subject and speakers have yet to be confirmed.
The next meeting of the All-Party Group on Legal Aid meeting will be held on Wednesday 13 February at 4pm – 5.30pm in Committee Room 9 at the House of Commons. The theme will be “Life after the legal aid cuts – social welfare law”. Speakers include Lord Low of Dalston, Lord Bach, Margie Butler (Mary Ward Legal Centre), James Sandbach (Citizens Advice), Giles Peaker (Anthony Gold Solicitors) and Patrick Torsney (creator of ilegal.org.uk).
What will the Commission cover? ‘The Commission’s work will cover: asylum, benefits, community care, debt, education (including special educational needs), employment, housing and immigration. The Commission will take a wide view of its brief, looking at ways of reducing demand for advice and legal support in these areas, as well as investigating new approaches to delivery and funding.’
Please contribute to development of its strategies and proposals by:
- commenting on the Context Papers. Go to Documents on the website and select papers of interest: currently Debt, Employment and Welfare Benefits (others will be added). Comments are requested by 31 March, though more general evidence submissions are welcomed by 31 May.
- submitting evidence to the Commission. Go to Can You Help, or to Submit Evidence and follow the links there.
The Commission will publish its final report in December 2013 but will consult on its emerging recommendations in September 2013. The Commission will meet with experts and users at a series of meetings and roundtables and will welcome written submissions of evidence to help inform its work.
2.Another speaker yesterday was Patrick Torsney of Ask & Prosper Ltd (and creator of illegal.org.uk). He referred to the survey being undertaken. Here is more information from Patrick on that.
‘Will the LASPO legal aid cuts affect you or your colleagues? Are you being made redundant, redeployed or having your hours reduced?
We've been collaborating with the Centre for Human Rights in Practice at the University of Warwick, who has begun to study how LASPO legal aid cuts are likely to affect social welfare law as an area of advice provision, looking at issues such as 'skills loss', and capacity to meet the ever-increasing demand for legal advice services. The survey is aimed at those directly providing services to clients, although anyone else in other roles can also complete it where your job did/does involve the delivery of legal aid work in social welfare law (especially Debt, Employment, Housing and Welfare Benefits)
The survey is open to private practice and non-profit organisations so please help us by encouraging staff and colleagues to complete it and by circulating it to anyone else who might be interested (whether or not they are still working in the sector). Ideally, everyone in your organisation who is affected by LASPO and the current funding situation will complete it.
It's fully anonymous and the deadline for completion is 22nd February.
The outcome of the survey will take the form of a final report, independently written and prepared by the researchers. I stress, it is quite possible that this report will play a significant role in future discussions around supporting social welfare law and future specialist advice services generally.
It's applicable to both private practice and non-profits.’
Post by Patrick Torsney on Mar 7, 2013 9:06:58 GMT
The latest from the APPG on legal aid - next meeting 20th March 2013
I am writing to update you about the next meeting of the All-Party Group on Legal Aid, which will be on Wednesday 20 March at 4pm in Committee Room 9 at the House of Commons. The subject of the meeting will be crime competitive tendering. Our line-up of speakers includes Dr Elizabeth Gibby, who is Deputy Director responsible for Legal Aid Policy at the Ministry of Justice, Greg Powell from the LCCSA, Maura McGowan QC from the Bar Council, and a representative from the Law Society. We have also invited the CLSA to speak.
The meeting is particularly timely because the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, has just released a Written Ministerial Statement stating the Government’s intention to accelerate the original anticipated date of autumn 2013 for a consultation on proposals for competitive tendering in the criminal legal aid market. The consultation period is now anticipated to begin in April 2013 and run for eight weeks, with the intention that tendering will occur in autumn 2013 and the first contracts will go live in autumn 2014. The consultation:
“Will include proposals to both improve the credibility of the legal aid scheme and reduce its cost to the taxpayer – one of these being price competition in criminal legal aid.”
At our meeting, Dr Gibby will give a short presentation, and then will be interested to hear views about the principle of competition in criminal legal aid but also ideas for how a model of price competition might be designed to address some of the current anxieties amongst the profession. The other speakers will also give their views. This should be a very informative and interesting event.
If you think that your MP might be interested in attending, or know of any others (such as other practitioners) likely to be interested, we would be very grateful if you could bring this email to their attention. We cannot advertise All-Party Group meetings as public events, but if you could ask those you contact to email us if they wish to attend, they will be able to come along. Please also let us know by email if you plan to attend.