Clause 59

Part of Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:45 pm ar 22 Tachwedd 2007.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:45, 22 Tachwedd 2007

I do not want to take up the Committee’s time for too long with the issue of legal aid. I should declare an interest as a legal aid practitioner. I have three matters to address. The intention behind the clauses is one to sign up to—ensuring that representation orders are put in place early, at the time of investigation and before a formal charge has been made.

My first question to the Minister is whether clause 59 is concerned with saving costs by ensuring that representation orders do not involve double-counting. At the moment, claims are made for police station work and for work undertaken in the courts. Where a case comes within a representation order ambit, it then falls on a standard fee scale, which by implication limits the costs concerning police station and court work. Is that right, or is the clause concerned with ensuring that representation orders are granted early to allow the administration of justice to proceed promptly?

My second point relates to clause 60. I welcome it, as representation orders are often blocked because information about passportable benefits does not proceed quickly to the courts. I seek an assurance that the necessary technology and administration exist for courts in England and Wales to implement clause 60.

My third point relates to clause 61 and the pilot programme. This Government are, in many ways, addicted to pilots—they occur in various areas, and evaluations are eventually published. Although it is welcome that before proceeding with changes to criminal defence funding, the Government wish to test them with pilots, is it not more appropriate to listen to practitioners about legal aid matters? One such area is means testing. If the Government had listened carefully to practitioners’ concerns about the problems that might flow from an over-bureaucratic means-testing regime, there would not have been the difficulties that ultimately needed to be dealt with by way of additional directions and regulations to amend the legislation. I do not object to pilots in any way, but they are not always needed if there is proper consultation, such as with practitioners in the criminal defence service.