The British Government faces renewed pressure to drop or delay plans for overhauling the legal aid scheme with a damning report this month from MPs.
The Constitutional Affairs Committee says that if the proposed reforms go ahead, there is a risk to access to justice for the most vulnerable in society.The Constitutional Affairs Committee says that if the proposed reforms go ahead. there is a risk to access to justice for the most vulnerable in society.
Four separate court challenges are being prepared against the Lord Chancellor over plans to overhaul the scheme.
The committee says that the move to bring in competitive tendering for legal aid contracts must be piloted before being brought in. No detailed plans have been published, MPs say; and they raise doubts over whether the expected savings would justify the risks.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, wants to move lawyers from “payment by the hour” to fixed fees in the interests of greater efficiency.
Fewer legal aid firms than now are envisaged; it is argued that this will achieve savings, enabling more people to be helped. But today MPs reject the idea that fewer larger legal aid firms would provide a more efficient service and say that to go ahead wihout a pilot project would be “reckless”.
The report further expresses concern about the impact on ethnic minority law firms, which tend to be small and to cater for the ethnic minority communities.