Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour 3:45 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, I support the line taken by our Front Bench. Without any question, there are risks with referral fees but they are fairly minimal. The questions that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and others should ask themselves are whether they believe that there will be more of the kind of litigants who at present benefit from the union offering these services, admittedly through using referral fees, especially given what we are doing to legal aid in this Bill; or whether there will be fewer people taking action. My view is that if these changes are put through, the likelihood is that unions will not be able to offer services on the same kind of basis that they have in the past. As a consequence, fewer people will pursue cases and the people who will not be pursuing those cases will be the ones at the bottom of the pile, and not those who are higher up with a fund of money to pursue the law without any trouble whatever. I put those very serious questions to those who are pursuing this line.