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Legal Services Commission

Volume 495: debated on Monday 6 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) if he will instruct the Legal Services Commission to evaluate the effect of best value tendering on the ability of law firms to deliver legally-aided criminal defence services; (284249)

(2) whether his Department has made an estimate of the effect on expenditure on legal aid which would result from the implementation of the Best Value Tendering for Criminal Defence Service Contracts models in 2010;

(3) if he will instruct the Legal Services Commission to evaluate the effect of best value tendering on the quality of legally-aided criminal defence services;

(4) if he will instruct the Legal Services Commission to evaluate the effectiveness of its tender process for the best value tendering exercise.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is currently analysing responses to its consultation on best value tendering (BVT) which closed on 19 June. It will issue a response in the next few weeks. The consultation set out the LSC’s intention to pilot BVT in Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset and to evaluate the pilot tender exercise before making any decisions on wider rollout across England and Wales.

The LSC’s consultation stated that any evaluation of the pilot tender exercise would address areas such as the operation of the tender mechanism; the prices and level of supply obtained; changes in the shape of the market; the ability of firms to adjust structures, where necessary to deliver work under the new contract; and an equalities impact assessment of the tender outcome.

Best value tendering has the potential to achieve savings in areas where there is strong competition by setting the local market price for services and allowing firms to realise efficiency savings. However, it is not possible to predict in advance the outcome of a competitive process and we recognise that prices may rise in some areas. Piloting the proposals will give us a much better understanding of the overall financial impact.

A final impact assessment will be published alongside the LSC’s response to the consultation, which will fully assess the impact of any decisions on implementing these proposals.