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Lord Kingsland: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for pointing out, first, what is an obvious misprint and, secondly, something which I am sure is entirely my fault. Subsections (4), (5) and (6) of the proposed amendment clearly belong elsewhere. I apologise to the Committee for the error which, as I said, I am sure is entirely mine.

The Lord Chancellor: I have to confess that I was rather puzzled that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, seemed to have such an affection for Clause 1(3) that

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he borrowed it, without a word of acknowledgement, in order to add it to his interesting suggestion about a new review body.

I tend to wish to echo what my noble friends behind me have said. Review bodies generally exist to protect groups such as public sector employees from the risk of what I suppose could be called "exploitation by the state". However, providers of services under the community legal service and the criminal defence service will be characteristically different from public employees. Indeed, most will have sources of income other than those funded by the legal services commission. They will be professional solicitors and barristers operating essentially in the private sector. They will be competing with other service providers for contracts for publicly-funded legal services.

I cannot accept these amendments. They seem to me to be aimed simply at targeting public money to keep lawyers in the manner to which they have become accustomed. I should have thought we had by now made it plain enough that we are modernising the provision of legal services to concentrate public money on those who most need it. It is not intended to create more jobs for public servants supporting a review body, nor to ensure that lawyers, all of whom work in the private sector, obtain a certain portion of the public finances.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that if this amendment were passed, the money spent in meeting targets and running the review body would have to come from the money allocated for the delivery of services. When the noble Lord responds I shall be pleased if he could inform us which cases I should no longer fund in order to pay for the costs of the review body.

The truth is that those who require certainty of income seek salaried employment. The Committee will recall from Second Reading that a number of noble Lords spoke at length about the perceived perils of employed lawyers. If lawyers wish to provide services from within the private sector to the public sector for reward, they must accept the rigours of the market and compete for contracts to undertake publicly funded work.

The Government want good lawyers to do legal aid work. We want to have arrangements which encourage good lawyers to do this in sufficient number and to the right quality, and seek to put such provisions in place in this Bill. However, the Government have no duty to help lawyers achieve target incomes. We are unwilling to establish a review body whose task would be to help to achieve that. On reflection I invite the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kingsland: I shall not press this amendment, but there are some matters to which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor referred which give me some cause for concern. First, as I understand it, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will furnish advocacy rights in the courts to public employed officials in the Crown Prosecution Service, and perhaps in the newly-established defence service. Those officials will certainly fall within the category of public servants to which he and the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley,

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referred. Therefore to that extent the review body is on all fours with the other review bodies to which I referred.

As regards the private sector, to the extent that the private sector is financed by funds coming through the community legal service and the defence service, these funds are public funds. The object of using these public funds is to provide access to justice for people who deserve it. There must come a point in the individual financing of these funds when the money provided to independent lawyers in private practice from the public sector is so low as either to discourage them from participating in the provision of publicly funded legal services at all, or seriously and adversely to affect the quality of the services provided.

While I have no intention of pressing the concept of the review body, the nature of the reply of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to me about the terms on which the private sector provides its services gives rise to some cause for concern which no doubt will be expressed in more detail when later amendments arise which touch on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 39:

After Clause 4, insert the following new clause--

Consumers' committees

(" .--(1) The Commission shall establish committees, to be known as consumers' committees, for the purposes of this Part.
(2) Each consumers' committee shall be appointed for an area in England and Wales as determined by the Commission.
(3) Each consumers' committee shall consist of--
(a) a chairman appointed by the Commission after consultation with the Lord Chancellor; and
(b) such other members as the Commission, after consultation with the chairman, may from time to time appoint.
(4) It shall be the duty of the consumers' committees--
(a) to keep under review matters affecting the interests of consumers of legal services in the committee's area; and
(b) to advise the Commission on any matter relating to the discharge of its functions.").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss with Amendment No. 39, Amendments Nos. 49 and 83 which are consequential on Amendment No. 39. Amendment No. 39 seeks to build on the work that has been carried out, and is still being carried out, by the regional legal services committees, and to reinforce them and the underlying intention of the Bill by establishing that users of legal services stand at the heart of the new community legal service.

The White Paper states at paragraph 2.12 on page 15 that the legal services commission,

    "will find ways to work in partnership with local communities, local government and other funders. These partnerships will build on the links and structures already established by the Legal Aid Board through its Regional Legal Services Committees; these will continue to have the role of advising the LSC on how best to deploy the resources of the Community Legal Service fund to meet priorities across the region as a whole".

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The establishment of consumer committees would be a positive way to demonstrate that it is intended they will play a full part in providing a network of committees to assist the commission to identify local need and advise it on how it should discharge its duties. Although the regional legal services committees have a vital role to play in assessing the need for legal services, gathering information on the supply of legal and related services, identifying regional priorities, developing a regional strategy and monitoring implementation of that strategy, they are neither independent nor are they focused on the needs of users of legal services. A member of the Legal Aid Board currently chairs each RLSC, which also receives administrative support from the local legal aid office. In addition, the legal aid area office manager is an ex officio member of each committee.

A new consumer committee structure would be of assistance in ensuring that real demand and needs are being met from the point of view of those who use legal services and those organisations which have experience and knowledge of working with legal service users. These organisations in particular are well placed to gauge demand and unmet need in an objective way. The amendment seeks explicitly to establish the principle that consumers and their representative organisations have an important and independent role to play. I beg to move.

Lord Renton: Although I do not hold myself out as agreeing totally that the area committees which the noble Lord has put forward should be known necessarily as consumer committees, I think he has raised an important matter which is not otherwise dealt with in the Bill; namely, how the legal aid scheme to be available under this Bill is to be dealt with locally.

It so happens that under the present legal aid scheme we have for many years had area legal aid committees. Indeed I served on one many years ago which covered south-east England. I believe it covered the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex. We had the responsibility of deciding in individual cases whether legal aid should be granted.

I may have missed something, but I have been looking through Clause 5 and later clauses to see whether there is anything in the Bill analogous to area legal aid committees, with all their detailed responsibilities in individual cases. If I may have the attention of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I am very anxious for him to indicate whether there is anything that is either in the Bill or that he has in mind for dealing with cases locally. One way of doing so would be through the committees proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, provided that we give them adequate powers. This is a very important matter. We cannot have legal aid entirely centralised.

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