Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) sought to reduce the civil legal aid budget by removing specific areas of the law from scope, either wholly or in part. In making these reforms, the Government intended not only to reduce the legal aid budget but also to encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation. The provisions came into force on 1 April 2013.
The Committee undertook a short inquiry into the Government’s proposals to reform legal aid when they were at the consultation stage, in the winter of 2010–11. In its Report published 30 March 2011 (Third Report of Session 2010–11, Government’s proposed reform of legal aid, HC 681 (PDF)), the Committee raised a number of subjects of concern. The Committee now proposes to inquire into the impact of the LASPO changes. The Committee recognises that certain effects of the changes may not yet be fully clear, but considers that there is sufficient evidence of those effects to enable it to follow up its previous work before the end of the current Parliament. The Committee intends to examine the identifiable outcomes of the legislation against its previous conclusions and recommendations, as well as to consider any new problems which have arisen.
The Committee invites interested organisations and individuals to submit written evidence to the inquiry. A list of questions of particular interest to the Committee is given below, and these may be used to structure submissions, but submissions may address any aspect of the impact of the changes which are of concern or interest.
- What have been the overall effects of the LASPO changes on access to justice? Are there any particular areas of law or categories of potential litigants which have seen particularly pronounced effects?
- What are the identifiable trends in overall numbers of legally-aided civil law cases being brought since April 2013 in comparison with previous periods, and what are the reasons for those trends?
- Have the LASPO changes led to the predicted reductions in the legal aid budget? Has any evidence come to light of cost-shifting or cost escalation as a result of the changes?
- What effects have the LASPO changes had on (a) legal practitioners and (b) not-for-profit providers of legal advice and assistance?
- What effects have the LASPO changes had on the number of cases involving litigants-in-person, and therefore on the operation of the courts? What steps have been taken by the judiciary, the legal profession, courts administration and others to mitigate any adverse effects and how effective have those steps been?
- What effects have the LASPO changes had on the take-up of mediation services and other alternative dispute resolution services, and what are the reasons for those effects?
- What is your view on the quality and usefulness of the available information and advice from all sources to potential litigants on civil legal aid? Do you have any comments on the operation of the mandatory telephone gateway service for people accessing advice on certain matters?
- To what extent are victims of domestic violence able to satisfy the eligibility and evidential requirements for a successful legal aid application?
- Is the exceptional cases funding operating effectively?
The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2014.
Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via:
Submit written evidence