Legal Aid Bill: Lords report stage day three

12 March 2012

The House of Lords continues report stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill with more detailed examination today (Monday 12 March).

Members will continue the debate looking at civil legal services in relation to unfair dismissal and debt-related disputes in amendments to Schedule One of the bill.

In Amendment 75, Lords will scrutinise legal aid and housing, including 'services provided to an individual at risk of losing their home' and advice under the Legal Help Scheme for matters under the Mobile Homes Act 1983.

The debate will cover immigration appeals in Amendment 78 and move on to civil legal services and terrorism prevention and investigation measures in Amendment 79. 

Lords' changes: The latest marshalled list of amendments

Report stage day two: Wednesday 7 March

Four divisions took place during the last debate (Wednesday 7 March) resulting in three government defeats and one government win.The first two votes followed Amendment 11 and 12 suggesting the provision of civil legal services to those on social welfare benefits, allowances, pensions and credits.

Baroness Doocey (Liberal Democrat) who moved Amendment 11 explained: 'The amendment concerns the proposals in the bill to remove legal aid for appeals against official decisions about entitlement to welfare benefit. These proposals will seriously inhibit claimants' access to justice, will not deliver the savings that the government hope for and will create very serious problems for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.'

The division (vote) on Amendment 11 resulted in a government defeat with 237 members 'for' and 198 'against' the amendment.

The majority of Lords supported Amendment 12 covering social welfare, put forward by Lord Bach (Labour), with a second government defeat. There were 222 'content' votes (for) and 194 'not content' votes (against).

Lords then focused on civil legal services in Amendments 13 and 15 and voted on these proposed changes.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick (Crossbench) moved Amendment 13, which scrutinised civil legal services provided for clinical negligence reporting and proceedings. The government were defeated by six members' votes (178 to 172).

Baroness Grey-Thompson (Crossbench) put her name to Amendment 15, which asked for clarification over the meaning of 'clinical negligence' and 'clinical negligence proceedings'. 

She said: '... the vast majority of lawyers involved in clinical negligence cases say that they will not be able to take on many of these cases under the new arrangements.'

Members voted resulting in a government win with 175 against and 168 for the amendment.

The last stage: Committee stage

The 10-day committee stage (last stage) concluded on Wednesday 15 February.

What is report stage?

Report stage in the chamber gives all members of the Lords further opportunity to consider all amendments (proposals for change) to a bill. It usually starts at least 14 days after committee stage. It can be spread over several days (but usually fewer days than at committee stage).

Detailed line by line examination of the separate parts (clauses and schedules) of a bill takes place during report stage. Voting can take place and any member can take part.

Before report stage takes place

  • The day before report stage starts, amendments are published in a Marshalled List – in which all the amendments are placed in order.
  • On the day, amendments on related subjects are grouped together and a list (“groupings of amendments”) is published.

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.

What is the committee stage?

During committee stage, detailed line-by-line examination of separate clauses and schedules of the bill takes place. Any member of the Lords can take part. It can last for one or two days to eight or more. This stage usually starts no fewer than two weeks after the second reading.

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

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