MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
News Release (No:084/07) issued by The Government News Network on 22
and Secretary of State for Justice Lord Falconer today said legal
aid reform would ensure as many people as possible were helped
within the resources available by encouraging efficient working
practices in the legal profession.
In his response to the Constitutional Affairs Committee Report,
Implementation of the Carter Review of Legal Aid, Lord Falconer
said the overall reform programme, including the extension of
fixed and graduated fees to pay for legal aid work, was necessary
to ensure spending remained under control and was focused on
helping those most in need.
Lord Falconer accepted the Committee's recommendations that
the processes needed to implement best value tendering for legal
aid work would require careful design.
"I welcome the Committee's thorough and wide-ranging
report, and its recognition that the legal aid system is in need
of reform. I am also pleased that they recognise that we are
heading in the right direction by moving to payment for legal
advice on a per case basis, rather than by the hour.
"Our reforms are designed to encourage efficiency, quality
and good practice and will enable more people to be helped within
the resources available. They also support wider Government
reforms to the justice system, which encourage the speedy and
effective resolution of cases."
Legal Aid Minister Vera Baird QC MP said:
"I am equally glad that the Committee recognised the need
for reform of legal aid and that the change from payment by inputs
to paying by outputs is a wise direction to travel. In order to
sustain the best- resourced legal aid system in the world we must
make sure that we get the best value from it. That is the only way
to ensure that those who need it most - vulnerable people
suffering from family and social welfare law problems - can be
sure that it is there for them. This is what the Government's
reform programme is designed to do."
Notes to Editors
1. The full response document Implementing Legal aid reform:
Government Response to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee
is available on http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications.reports.htm
2. The Department for Constitutional Affairs (now Ministry of
Justice) and Legal Services Commission (LSC) published Legal Aid
Reform: the Way Ahead on 28 November 2006, outlining the legal aid
scheme reform proposals.
3. This followed the consultation on Lord Carter's report
into legal aid procurement, published in July 2006. The Government
accepted the broad thrust of Lord Carter's recommendations:
to make much greater use of fixed and graduated fees as a
preliminary phase to gain control over expenditure; encourage
efficiency and prepare the market before moving to best value competition.
4. Currently, legal aid is paid by a mixture of fixed and
graduated fees and hourly rates. Fixed and graduated fees offer
greater control over spending, and give lawyers certainty over
payment. Hourly rates increase costs and reward inefficiency. The
proposals will extend the use of fixed and graduated fees to
nearly all areas of legal aid as an interim step to best value
tendering, based on quality, capacity and price. Spending on legal
aid rose from £1.5bn in 1997 to around £2bn today. Between 1997
and 2004, spending on criminal legal aid rose 37%, whilst spending
on civil and family legal aid (excluding immigration and asylum),
fell by 24%.
5. Last year the Community Legal Service funded nearly 800,000
acts of advice and assistance, the greatest number since its
creation in 2000, and an increase of over 200,000 compared to 2004/05
6. The LSC announced final fee schemes for family private help
and for help and representation by solicitors in child care cases
today. They will apply from October 2007 (though 'Level
3' and advocacy have been deferred to July 2008 and will be
the subject of further consultation - as already envisaged for
advocacy). Final fees for mental health work have also been
announced today and will apply from January 2008.
7. The new fee schemes will be implemented by regulations, as
well as by changes to the Unified Contract.
8. The LSC also published today a consultation on how duty
solicitors' slots at the police station and magistrates'
court should be allocated from October 2007; and the response to
the consultation on police station fees. 9. The LSC and MoJ also
published today a consultation document Creating a Quality
Assurance Scheme for Publicly Funded Criminal Defence Advocates,
for advocates working in the Crown courts and above. This document
is available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications.consultations.htm.
* Initial phase of new fixed and graduated fee schemes (Crown
Court Advocacy work, magistrates' court work in urban areas,
introduction of new Unified Contract for civil providers).
Harmonisation of fees for solicitors conducting private law family
work in the county court and the Family Proceedings Court.
October 2007 - January 2008
* Second phase of new fixed and graduated fee schemes (Tailored
Fixed Fee replacement for civil legal help, Family fee schemes,
Asylum and immigration fee scheme, Very High Cost Cases panel,
Police stations fixed fees, Crown Court litigators' graduated
fee scheme, Mental Health fee scheme, Crown Court Advocates
Quality assurance scheme pilots)
* Single advocacy fees in both family and crown court work.
October 2008 onwards
* Rollout of best value tendering, on a regional basis, beginning
for criminal lower work.