Bar Council calls on Parliament to examine civil legal aid secondary legislation

29 November 2013

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, is calling on Parliament to examine secondary legislation arising from the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ) 'Transforming Legal Aid' Consultation, which will have serious implications for the administration of justice.

Last week, the Chairman of the Bar wrote to both the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Scrutiny Committee) and the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments about the proposed changes to remuneration for practitioners undertaking civil legal aid work. Yesterday the Scrutiny Committee reported that the changes must be drawn to the special attention of the House.

The Report echoes the Bar Council's previous arguments, finding that the MoJ has not provided sufficient evidence to support its claims, nor given sufficient consideration to the wider consequences for the profession. Further, the MoJ has provided no explanation as to why self-employed barristers should now be paid a completely different rate from the standard hourly rate, what the changes seek to achieve or how much money it intends to save by implementing these changes. The Scrutiny Committee has been equally critical of the quality and level of explanation provided for the changes to practitioners' remuneration in criminal legal aid cases.

Chairman of the Bar, Maura McGowan QC, said:

"This poorly drafted legislation will damage access to justice and threatens the continued viability of practice of many publicly-funded barristers who provide specialist advice and advocacy for some of the most vulnerable in our society. Barristers provide a vital frontline service for many people whose voices might not otherwise be heard. The Government's changes would see a further eye-watering cut to practitioners' fees, in some cases exceeding 50%.  These hard-working professionals should be paid fairly, to reflect the need for high quality practitioners to undertake work in these areas. Reductions of this scale will almost certainly lead to highly skilled practitioners at the Bar moving to other areas of practice or being lost to the profession altogether, and that will not be in the public interest.

 "We strongly urge Parliamentarians to agree with the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee and to press for a much-needed debate to evaluate the significance of these changes."

 

 

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. For furtger information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525. 

2. The 20th Report of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee can be read here.

3. The Civil Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (SI/2013/2877) Statutory Instrument can be read here

 4. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board