MoJ announce new Legal Aid Contract Consultation
The LAA have drafted a proposed new Contract for Duty Work commencing in 2017.
The LAA today announced the start of a consultation on the terms of the new contract.
The LAA are not consulting representative practitioner groups with elected officers such as LCCSA, or even disclosing the terms of the new draft contract to them.
Instead they are consulting only 4 associations which include the Law Society, but also the Bar Council.
LCCSA President Greg Foxsmith said "with over 1000 members in London desperate to know what are the provisions of the proposed new contracts, it is bizarre that the LCCSA are not consulted but instead the Bar Council are invited to comment"
The LCCSA are asking the MOJ to include representative groups in the current consultation.
1 The exclusion of solicitor groups in favour of the bar, follows the announcement of the bar- dominated "Bell Committee", which will report to the Lord Chancellor and is chaired by Solicitor-Advocate hating controversial QC Gary Bell.
2 The LCCSA did meet regularly with the MOJ this year to make submissions about what should be in the new contracts, along with other representative groups.
The LCCSA made the case for duty solicitor slots to remain with individual solicitors, rather than firms.
3 The MOJ claims to have a statutory duty to consult with certain representative groups (including The Law Society and Bar Council) but even if correct the LCCSA believe the consultation should be extended to include those directly representing practitioners at the coal face of criminal legal aid, including the LCCSA. We note the Law Society Criminal Committee (whose involvement we welcome) support this.
4 The supposed legal basis for "statutory consultative bodies" is not clear.
From 1999 and the Access to Justice Act there was a requirement to consult as part of the contract regime when it was brought in. The consultees then were just TLS and Bar Council.
It is unclear whether this was just internal guidance for ministers within the MoJ or buried in regulation somewhere.
In the post Carter era when competitive tendering was raising the temperature communications LAPG and ASA deployed a policy of positive engagement on civil contract matters.
The result of that engagement was to have their names added to the consultation list.
It appears there was no relevant legislation at that time in which the enlarged consultation group could have been approved.
The result is that in the absence of any legislative or regulatory evidence, the concept of restricting consultation to those groups is built on a myth, and there is no reason why further groups cannot be added.