Lord Bach, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice, yesterday made a written statement to the House in respect of the proposed cuts to family legal aid advocacy fees, in which he said:
Since the formal consultation ended, the Legal Services Commission has had a substantial amount of constructive engagement with stakeholders. They have provided a considerable amount of detailed advice on how to improve the structure of both the advocacy and representation schemes – primarily to recognise complexity in cases. [I am biting my tongue as I type this considerable finesse on the events of the last several months.]
Our original proposals have been substantially revised to reflect many of their suggestions. This has required a considerable amount of reworking of the assumptions that underpin the modelling of the fee schemes. I have concluded that in order to ensure that those models are as accurate as possible, further analysis is required before we publish the final fee schemes. [Really? Who'da thunk it?]
My officials and the Legal Service Commission will be working on the fee schemes over the summer. They will be finalised and announced in time for the September bid round for new civil contracts in April 2010.
I think that's what is technically known as a climbdown. Now we await the announcement later in the summer.
There is little else to say at this stage except to thank all of those who have worked so hard on behalf of lawyers, children and families to ensure that these proposals were recognised as the half baked nonsense that they always were. Until I see the proposals I will not believe for one minute that the powers that be have actually been persuaded by the 'constructive engagement' and 'detailed advice' we have all given them: a cynic (who me?) might say that what they have been persuaded by is the realisation that it is practically and politically impossible to proceed without being seen to be responsive. Enjoy your summer holiday if you have one booked, you may not be able to afford one next year. I shall be on an exotic trip to Scotland when the announcement is made (living it up on the legal aid gravy train again). Rather than seeking out a wifi hotspot I think I will be delaying the inevitable thud back to earth until I am back in the jurisdiction.