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I have regular discussions with the Treasury Solicitor, Sir Paul Jenkins, on matters of mutual interest. Sir Paul is the architect of the shared legal service, which has led to a much improved organisation and streamlining of the Government legal service. I trust that that will continue. Sir Paul has been a Government lawyer for 35 years. He will retire at the end of the month and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his major contribution to this issue, for his years of service to the Government legal service and, indeed, for helping the good governance of our country.
I draw the House’s attention to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Will my right hon. and learned Friend set out what benefits will be gained from sharing legal services across Government Departments?
Sharing legal services brings considerable benefits in greater flexibility and reliance; more efficient deployment of legal resources, including specialist expertise; and more opportunities for savings and improved knowledge sharing. It also provides a more coherent legal service for Government as a whole and good career development opportunities for lawyers, and it improves the legal support to individual Departments.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one area of expertise that could be improved by shared legal service is that of awareness of and consistent access to expertise in forms of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, which should be available to all Government Departments?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. That is precisely the benefit of bringing the legal advisers from different Departments into one organisation. There is now a single board that groups those people together in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, and I am confident it can deliver savings, lower charging costs for Departments—we have already seen that—and greater efficiency and expertise in-house.