Justice Minister and leading legal voices to be questioned on legal aid policy
26 April 2022
Government proposals to reform legal aid and the way it’s used to pay solicitors and barristers will be examined by the Justice Committee on Wednesday, 27 April.
This evidence session follows the cross-party Committee’s inquiry from 2021. As well as exploring issues around low pay for defence work, the report recommended restructuring the schemes for criminal legal aid fees, with a focus on early engagement and ensuring lawyers are paid for all the work they do for clients. The Committee also said the Means Test should be simplified and that thresholds should be increased so that more of the public can claim legal aid.
There has since been the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid by Sir Christopher Bellamy QC, which urged the Government to increase criminal legal aid by at least 15%, with additional funding of £135m a year.
When the Government published its Mean Test Review last month, pledging to go ahead with a 15% increase, there was initially positive feedback from the sector. But analysis by the Law Society and Bar Council has since indicated the Government’s increase may only amount to 9%.
Members of the Criminal Bar Association voted to adopt a ‘no returns’ policy from 11 April 2022, meaning barristers are not taking on extra cases in which another advocate was originally instructed.
Purpose of the session
At Wednesday’s evidence session, MPs will question Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council, and Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society, on their reaction to the Government’s proposals and next steps.
From 3.30pm, MPs will then quiz James Cartlidge, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, and senior civil servant Jelena Lentzos on the plans.
Wednesday 27 April
Panel 1, 2:30-3:30pm
- Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council
- Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society
Panel 2, 3:30-4:30pm
- James Cartlidge, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice
- Jelena Lentzos, Deputy Director for Legal Aid Policy, Ministry of Justice
Image: Parliamentary copyright