Report on Legal Services Commission Cardiff Office

01 May 2009

The failure by the Legal Services Commission to consult with the Wales Office or the Welsh Assembly Government about the Commission’s decision to significantly reduce its Cardiff office is unacceptable and presents a serious risk to the provision of legal aid services in Wales says the Welsh Affairs Committee in a report released today, Friday 1 May 2009.

The Committee was shocked to discover that the Commission had no contact with the Wales Office at all about its plans to relocate services from Cardiff to an office in England, and calls on the Commission urgently to consider alternatives.

Provision of adequate legal expertise for interpreting Welsh legislation is essential and future Welsh measures, such as on housing and vulnerable children, are likely to have an impact on legal aid cases. The Committee is not convinced that an English office would have sufficient resources or expertise to deal with these cases.

It is, says the report, disturbing that the Commission, as an agency of the Ministry of Justice, has demonstrated such a lack of awareness about the devolution settlement.

The extent of consultation by the Commission with other stakeholders was extremely limited. Excluding these parties from consultation is, according to the report, "evidence of an inward-looking and metropolitan attitude that is insensitive to the needs of a devolved administration." Consultation appeared to be an afterthought, conclude the MPs.

The Committee recommends that no change to the functions of the Cardiff office should be made until thorough and genuine consultation has taken place to determine its likely impact on levels of service.

Whitehall guidance on devolution should also be strengthened to prevent confusion about the devolution settlement and to clarify the role of the Secretary of State and the Wales Office.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr Hywel Francis MP, said:

"I am pleased that the Minister has acknowledged that mistakes were made during this process and that he is seeking more time for this to be done properly. It is essential that more time is now allowed for thorough consultation to take place before any decision on the future of the Cardiff office is made. My Committee will continue to monitor developments."

Image: iStockphoto

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Devolution, Parliament, Commons news, Parliamentary business, Wales, Committee news, National Assembly for Wales

Share this page