Eleanor Sanders, project worker to the All-Party Group (APG) on Legal Aid, writes:
The APG aims to promote parliamentary and public understanding of the importance of the role of publicly funded legal services. The APG is composed of MPs and peers from the three main political parties, chaired by Yvonne Fovargue MP, and holds meetings which are attended by parliamentarians and other interested individuals. The APG is sponsored by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) and Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL), and receives financial support from The Baring Foundation.
Regulations under the LASPO Act 2012
The APG’s latest meeting in November concerned the new regulations which the coalition government is introducing under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012. The aim of the meeting was to raise concerns over a number of aspects of the new legislation.
Three speakers from the Ministry of Justice legal aid team (Stephen Jones, Michael Tant and Jacky Sullens) attended to explain the proposed legislation, while Baroness Scotland, Andy Slaughter MP, shadow minister for justice, and Nicola Mackintosh of Mackintosh Law spoke to raise their concerns. A lively debate ensued. Lord Phillips urged audience members with expertise on the relevant areas to contact parliamentarians. Labour peer Lord Bach spoke about his opposition to the provisions on First-tier Tribunal appeals in the draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order (‘the Amendment of Sch 1 Order’) 2012, which aimed to limit legal aid for such appeals to very narrow circumstances where a tribunal identifies an error of law in its own decision (see left).
The meeting was a valuable way of raising awareness about the regulations. On 3 December, the House of Lords secured an assurance from Lord McNally, the justice minister, that the government will bring forward as soon as practicable (and in any event well before April 2013 when the regulations are due to come into force) amending regulations to revise regulation 53(b) of the draft Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2012 so as to ensure that judicial review claimants are not required to pursue ineffective means of redress. The Lords also approved Lord Bach’s ‘fatal motion’ against the draft Amendment of Sch 1 Order
, meaning that the Order must be withdrawn for reconsideration by the government.
Dates for your diary
The dates and topics for the next two APG meetings have been confirmed. On Tuesday 22 January 2013, Lord McNally will address the APG, and on Wednesday 13 February 2013, the theme will be ‘Life after the legal aid cuts – social welfare law’. The APG’s website at: www.appg-legalaid.org
is updated regularly and contains links to the minutes of and briefings from all the group’s meetings.
For further information about attending, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
and quote ‘APG on Legal Aid’ and the relevant meeting date(s) in the subject line.