Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fourth Report


18. It is not possible to assess the overall impact of the proposed changes at present as many of the details remain subject to further development and consultation. However, Lord Bach told us that the Government hoped that, besides controlling costs, the new system would improve transparency and provide greater flexibility to target the social need agenda.[37] There was, he maintained, general support for a change in the administrative arrangements, with the Legal Aid Department of the Law Society ceasing to have administrative responsibility.[38]

19. The Law Society has no objection in principle to the change of administrative arrangements, but has expressed considerable reservations over many aspects of the Government's proposals for reform, particularly in relation to cost issues. It also expresses concerns about the possible impact on the structure of the profession in Northern Ireland.[39]

20. One of the recurrent difficulties of the present system is delays in civil legal aid adjudications. The Legal Aid Advisory Committee has drawn attention to this.[40] Although some work has been carried out to reduce these delays, Lord Bach agreed that it would be very important for the LSC to tackle this problem.[41]

21. In the following paragraphs, we consider some specific aspects of the proposed reforms, and the submissions we have received on them.

37  Q 17. Back

38  Q 17. Back

39  Appendix 12, p. 51. See also Q 22-23. Back

40  See, for example, the Legal Aid Annual Reports for 1997-98 (HC 526 (1998-99)) and for 1998-99 (HC 595 (1999-2000)). Back

41  Q 20. Back

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