The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) has lost its way and is failing the public over ?bread and butter? issues, constitutional affairs select committee member and one-time minister Keith Vaz MP has told the Gazette.

The heart of the matter, Mr Vaz said, is that the DCA was born out of crisis and lacks cohesion. ?On the big stuff we?ve done very well, but sadly on the bread and butter issues... I think that the department has lost its way,? he claimed. ?The sad part is that Lord Falconer, who?s got a first-class brain, is dealing with an organisation which is a third-class organisation.?

Mr Vaz praised the Lord Chancellor?s vision, but said that ?at the delivery of legal services to local people, we?ve totally failed, despite all the reorganisation that?s taken place, because we never see it from the perspective of the consumers. We don?t ask what the consumers want, we just say ?this is the substitute, this will give you better advice, this will give you quicker advice?, but actually what it means is ?this will give you cheaper advice?.?

He also praised the government?s vision, citing the creation of the Supreme Court, the appointment of the Judicial Appointments Commission, and ?radical reform of the way in which we look at the overall system of justice?, but said the DCA set itself ?ambitious targets for radical reform? that have not been met.

Mr Vaz backed the creation of a Ministry of Justice, saying it would be a more meaningful creation than the DCA. ?I mean, what is the Department for Constitutional Affairs? What does it mean to ordinary people? If you went into the street and said ?I?m from the DCA?, they would look at you as if you were mad.?

There is nothing wrong with the creation of a Ministry of Justice, he said, and the opportunity to create one was missed when David Blunkett was home secretary.

The DCA rebuffed Mr Vaz?s accusations in a statement, saying that it ?has made great moves forward in refocusing the department towards the consumer and user of the legal system?.

It put forward the victim?s advocates consultation and the legal services reforms as examples of how it is ?putting the consumer at the heart of proposals by ensuring regulation is in the consumer interest?.

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