Clause 1 - Lord Chancellor’s functions

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 6th September 2011.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:45 pm, 6th September 2011

Most definitely; speaking from my own experience in legal matters, that is the case. I often found that the first 10 minutes of any interview with a new client were virtually a waste of time; then I would realise where things were going. I would feel that some things were not being told properly and I did not quite understand. In half an hour I would understand exactly what the problems were. I agree: it is vital that the adviser is given the full picture, or obviously wrong advice will be given. That is as plain as can be.

In circumstances where difficulties are encountered it should be routine for face-to-face consultation to take place. I fear that that will be a fair old number of cases, and the Government should begin to make provision for that now. We cannot wait for the system to come in, and for the whole thing to implode, which is what will happen. Wrong advice will be given, people will lose their entitlement or they might well fall foul of limitation periods. All manner of things might happen and the consequences are dire in the extreme.

I urge the Government to think carefully about the immediate provision of face-to-face consultation, whether that is visits or visits to the office. However it is arranged, there should be face-to-face consultation in many of these cases. That is not trying to give anybody a sort of  feather bed. It is to ensure that the system, if it has to come in, works. This particular element of it—face-to-face consultation—is vital if it is going to work.