Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 64)



  60. What underlay the question was, is there any risk that it will become more difficult to get financial support for such cases, with the new legal arrangements? I suspect the answer is yes.
  (Lord Bach) It depends very much, I suspect, on what sort of claim one is bringing and in what sort of field, but I think the Funding Code that will set out its priorities may mean that the answer in some cases is yes.

  61. Let me ask my final litmus-paper question. Is the Government satisfied that the proposed reforms of legal aid are: first, compatible with its obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998?
  (Lord Bach) Yes.

  62. And, secondly, consistent with statutory requirements on equality?
  (Lord Bach) Yes. We have looked at both these matters, they are being considered. We have talked about it before we came to see the Committee, and the advice I have received is yes.

  63. So if I were to ask what assessments have been made on each count, the answer is that the final assessments have been made, and the answer in both cases is yes?
  (Mr Thompson) Yes, that is true. On the second point, we are covered by Section 75 of the 1998 Act. We have produced a scheme dealing with equality, and policies and so on have to be proofed against the standards of the equality scheme. That has been done in relation to our policy proposals, and those will continue to be done as we work through our draft Order in Council, so it is very much in the forefront of our minds in looking at this.

  64. You are, as it were, re-visiting a minor scar whose scab we are not too keen on picking at. It took quite a long time for us to get information from the Government on Section 75, and therefore that is not an issue, on the whole, that we should care to be reminded about, but thank you very much indeed for the answer. I know I speak on behalf of the whole Committee when I say that you have made extremely interesting an afternoon on a field with which I suspect some of my colleagues, and certainly myself, are not necessarily familiar. You could not have made it clearer. We are most grateful to you for the evidence and thank you very much indeed for the concise way in which you have given it.
  (Lord Bach) Thank you very much indeed, Chairman, and thank you very much for listening to us.

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