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Legal Aid Reform

Volume 496: debated on Monday 20 July 2009

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Bach, has made the following written ministerial statement:

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) is publishing today a response to its consultation, published in March 2009, on best value tendering (BVT) of criminal defence services. The consultation set out plans to pilot BVT in Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset and, subject to the outcome of the pilot tender process, to roll-out BVT more widely during 2010-12.

The consultation was clear that the introduction of BVT would bring significant change to the way in which criminal defence services in the police station and magistrates’ court are currently funded. However, BVT offers the potential to secure the long-term sustainability of criminal defence work by enabling legal aid providers to offer their services at a sustainable price that reflects the costs of provision in their local area. The proposals have been designed to secure best value for taxpayers’ money and provide opportunities for practitioners to undertake more work where they have the capacity to do so.

The LSC intends to go ahead with the BVT pilot as planned, with the tender process beginning in October 2009. However, the LSC has listened carefully to concerns raised by those responding to the consultation and has been persuaded that there is a strong case for delaying the wider implementation of BVT until at least 2013 to enable a full evaluation of the impact in the two pilot areas.

The consultation response also details the final BVT model to be implemented in the pilot areas including the adjustments that have been made as a result of the consultation. In particular, the LSC intends to implement a more flexible, localised approach to maximum market share in response to concerns raised by respondents. It also intends to allow firms to undertake a small amount of police station work outside the area in which they have won a contract so that they can continue relationships with established clients.

Copies of “Best Value Tendering for CDS Contracts 2010: A Response to Consultation” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The document can be downloaded from the consultation section of the LSC’s website at: