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Departmental Legal Advisers

Volume 450: debated on Friday 20 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what policies and procedures are applicable to his Department's legal advisers (a) to ensure that work which is outside their expertise and experience is not undertaken by them and (b) for monitoring and assessing the performance of their work. (94421)

Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch advises the Home Office on legal issues arising in all aspects of its work. The Branch consists of some 50 lawyers organised into teams of varying sizes, each specialising in different areas of law and policy. In the course of their career in the Home Office, lawyers will usually work in several teams and gain experience in areas of law relevant to the Home Office's work (as well as experience of other areas of public law if they move on temporary secondment or loan to other Government Departments).

Each team in the Legal Adviser's Branch is headed by a senior lawyer, part of whose task is to guide and supervise the work of more junior members of his or her team. From time to time, where appropriate having regard to the sensitivity, complexity or novelty of an issue, specialist legal advice is obtained from members of the bar (who are selected from a panel appointed by the Attorney-General), from solicitors in private practice (drawn from a list of firms approved by the Treasury Solicitor) or from lawyers in other Government Departments.

All lawyers employed in the Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch hold current professional legal qualifications, and must continue to satisfy the post-qualifying and continuing legal education requirements of their branch of the legal profession. Training courses are available to them through the Government Legal Service as well as through commercial training providers. The Legal Adviser's Branch also runs a series of in- house seminars and training events on matters of current interest.

In addition, as civil servants, members of Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch receive regular reports and assessments on their professional competence and development, in accordance with Cabinet Office and Home Office guidance. Formal reports take place annually and semi- annually, and less formal mentoring and training takes place on a continuing basis.

The Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch is part of the Government Legal Service. The arrangements described above reflect those in place in other major departments in Whitehall.