Legal Aid Scheme

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 20th October 2014.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what average hourly rate is paid to (a) external solicitors and (b) Treasury Solicitor staff working on developing the residence test for legal aid.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many hours have been spent by (a) external solicitors, (b) external barristers, (c) Treasury Solicitor staff and (d) Treasury Counsel engaged by his Department for advice on the legal aid residence test policy.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how much in total has been paid to (a) each external solicitor, (b) each external barrister, (c) Treasury Solicitor staff and (d) Treasury Counsel engaged by his Department for advice on the policy development of the legal aid residence test.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Legal aid is a fundamental part of our justice system, but resources are not limitless. Legal aid is paid for by the taxpayer and at all times we must strive to ensure that public confidence is maintained in the system.

We believe that in principle, individuals should have a strong connection to the UK in order to benefit from the civil legal aid scheme. We have therefore proposed to introduce a residence test for civil legal aid requiring applicants to be lawfully resident in the UK, Crown Dependencies or British Overseas Territories at the time they apply for civil legal aid and have resided there lawfully for at least 12 continuous months in the past.

The civil legal aid residence test is part of the Legal Aid Transformation Programme, which consists of a number of work-streams.

In April 2014, the Department’s Legal Directorate was absorbed by the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. There is no record of the hours spent by Treasury Solicitor staff in the Legal Directorate advising on the legal aid residence test policy. Treasury Solicitor staff in the Department’s Legal Directorate do not record the time spent on advising on developing the residence test for legal aid or charge the Department an hourly rate for work undertaken. The Department has not engaged any Treasury Solicitor staff on developing the policy on the residence test beyond those employed within the Department’s Legal Directorate.

No external barristers (other than Treasury Counsel) or external solicitors were engaged by the Department on developing the residence test for legal aid. It is not possible to separate work carried out by Treasury Counsel on the development of the policy of the residence test as one work-stream from the wider programme or from the litigation relating to the policy.

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