My noble friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Bach, has made the following written ministerial statement.
Following a consultation process, the Government intend to introduce a number of reforms that aim to rebalance the legal aid budget to ensure that the £2.1 billion currently spent every year goes as far as possible in favour of civil help for those who need it most.
The reforms are outlined in the Government’s response to the consultation paper “Legal Aid: Funding Reforms”, which the Ministry of Justice will be publishing later today. The reforms are intended to make better use of the criminal legal aid budget and include changes that rationalise payment structures.
The reforms will:
Contain the cost of legal aid representation at police stations by reducing police station fees in the most expensive and oversubscribed areas.
Reform the current fee arrangements that remunerate litigators for preparation for committal hearings. Litigators will be paid a fixed fee for committals, which will be paid as part of the litigators graduated fee scheme.
End the anomaly by which practitioners in criminal cases receive a fee for file reviews which does not apply in civil cases.
It is estimated that approximately £23 million in savings will be made through the reforms to police station fees, changes to committal fees and the removal of the file review payments over the course of 2010-11.
In addition to these reforms, the Ministry of Justice will issue a second consultation paper to explore reforms to advocates fees in the Crown court.
Copies of the response to consultation and the consultation paper “Legal Aid: Reforming Advocates Graduated Fees” will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.