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Legal Aid Scheme

Justice written question – answered on 18th July 2013.

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Photo of Meg Munn Meg Munn Labour, Sheffield, Heeley

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he will take to ensure that children have access to appropriately qualified solicitors under his proposals for criminal legal aid.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Between 9 April and 4 June 2013 the Government consulted on a number of proposals to reform legal aid via the “Transforming Legal Aid: delivering a more credible and efficient system” consultation. This included a proposed model of competitive tendering for criminal legal aid services. We have been clear we must continue to bear down on the cost of legal aid, including the £1 billion of taxpayers' money spent on criminal legal aid a year, to ensure we are getting the best deal for the taxpayer.

We are clear we will continue to uphold everyone's right to a fair trial. Quality assured lawyers will still be available—just as they are now. The Legal Aid Agency would ensure as part of the tendering process that all providers are capable of delivering the full range of criminal legal aid services under contract across their procurement areas.

The current crime contract includes provisions for accepting applications for crime contract work on behalf of a child or protected party and accepting instructions directly from a child (paragraphs 4.24-4.29 of spec: part A). However, any specific skills and competence of a solicitor dealing with a child are not covered by the crime contract. We have asked for views from respondents on the factors they feel we should consider when designing the criteria for any future procurement process, which could include the skills and experience necessary for dealing with children. We are carefully considering all responses to the consultation on these issues.

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