Members of the Lords discussed a number of legal aid-related government regulations yesterday (Wednesday 27 March 2013)
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Amendment of Schedule 1) Order 2013
The instrument/order sets out certain conditions when civil legal aid may be made available, they include:
- appeals relating to council tax reduction schemes
- measures to amend the definition of domestic violence so it is consistent with the cross government definition
- the allowance for civil legal aid to be provided in relation to applications under the Convention on the international recovery of child support, and other forms of family maintenance concluded at The Hague on 23 November 2007.
Lord Bach (Labour) expressed concern about the provision of legal aid in first tier tribunal cases.
Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
These regulations set out the merits tests for various forms of civil legal services, including where certain forms of legal services are not appropriate.
Two motions were proposed on an earlier, related instrument, the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 (Si 2012/3098). Baroness Grey-Thompson (Crossbench) expressed concern that they fail to deliver wide enough access to legal aid for disabled persons, and Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Labour) expressed her concern that they fail to provide adequate legal aid provision for victims of domestic violence.
How do these draft instruments become law?
These Regulations are all Statutory Instruments (SIs). An Act will often contain a broad framework and statutory instruments are used to provide the necessary detail that would be too complex to include in the Act itself. They are also easier to change than an Act – for example to upgrade the rate of payment each year or amend the necessary forms in the light of experience.
All these instruments are subject to the affirmative procedure, that means they must be debated in both Houses before they can be made law. A vote can be taken on them if the House wishes but is not essential.