Legal Aid Bill: Lords' third reading

27 March 2012

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill enters third reading for final Lords scrutiny, amendments and potential votes today (Tuesday 27 March)

Members of the House have suggested a number of amendments to Schedule One which covers the provision of civil legal services for children under 18, vulnerable young people, victims of trafficking and those unlawfully taken from the UK.

Further debate is expected on issues including conditional fee agreements ('no-win, no fee') and after the event insurance schemes ('no-win, no premium') in amendments to clauses 46 and 48. Amendments 25 and 28 clarify that any amendments made exempt cases covering breach of privacy or defamation.

Members will discuss squatting offences in Amendment 36 to Clause 145. The amendment clarifies that a squatting offence is not committed if the building 'has been empty for 12 months or more and is not subject to a current planning application.'

What is third reading?

Third reading is the final chance for the Lords to debate and clarify the contents of the bill.

The day before third reading starts, amendments are published in a marshalled list and amendments on related subjects are grouped together and published on the day.

Amendments at third reading in the Lords are often used to clarify specific parts of the bill and to allow the government to make good any promises of changes to the bill made at earlier stages.

Next stage: Consideration of amendments/Ping pong

Once the bill has completed its passage through the second chamber the bill will return to the Commons where they will consider the amendments made.

Both Houses need to agree to the exact wording of the bill and the bill may 'ping pong' between both houses until this happens.

When the exact wording of the bill has been agreed by both Houses the bill is ready for royal assent. Once a bill receives royal assent it becomes an Act of Parliament (proposals in the bill become law).

The bill's progress so far

The previous stage of this bill to be completed in the Lords was the second reading, which took place on 21 November 2011.

Some key areas of the bill:

  • The bill takes certain types of case out of scope for legal aid funding and provides that cases would not be eligible for funding unless specified in the bill.
  • It abolishes the Legal Services Commission.
  • It makes various provisions in respect of civil litigation funding and costs, taking forward the recommendations of the Jackson Review.
  • It makes changes to sentencing provisions, giving courts an express duty (rather than the current power) to consider making compensation orders where victims have suffered harm or loss, reducing the detailed requirements on courts when they give reasons for a sentence, allowing courts to suspend sentences of up to two years rather than 12 months and amending the court’s power to suspend a prison sentence.
  • It introduces new powers to allow curfews to be imposed for more hours in the day and for up to 12 months rather than the current six.

Further information

 Image: iStock photo

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