Lordy Lordy!

Just on my way back from an interesting day at the House of Lords, where I gave my two penn’orth to a meeting hosted by Lord Thomas of Greshford (Shadow Attorney General & Justice Spokesperson) and co-chaired by Baronesses Butler Sloss and Walmsley (VC All Party Parliamentary Group for Children) to discuss the somewhat rhetorically posed question ‘Vulnerable Children at Risk: How Will The Legal Services Commission’s Proposals Help?’. An opportunity too good to be missed thought I, and so I embraced it – and with feeling (Churlish not to really). I told ’em what it’s like at the sharp end. And (I paraphrase just a little) why the proposals are rubbish… And on the way I stopped to admire the wallpaper. And Melvyn Bragg (who happened to be dining on the next table, with a backdrop of lovely wallpaper). I can also report that the carpets on the staircases are so deep and luxurious as to be positively springy.

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Also offering their thoughts were representatives from the Association of Lawyers for Children, National Youth Advocacy Service, and the tireless Lucy Theis QC. The LSC attended (much unhappy mumbling from directly behind me throughout – but no popcorn thrown) and defended their corner,.  Also present was Baroness Deech (Chair Bar Standards Board), Henry Bellingham MP (Shadow Minister for Justice), Kim Hollis QC (VC Equality & Diversity Committee, Bar Council), Alex Verdan QC, Lord Listowel. And some others who looked rather important / imposing / knowledgeable. And then little me. Curiouser and curiouser.

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It was a slightly surreal diversion from the day to day grind and the tired old surroundings of whatever piece of the delapidated unwallpapered HMCS estate I would normally be appearing in…Where the walls are decorate with nothing but coffee stains and goodness knows what and nothing but miles and miles of carpet tiles and trodden in chewing gum. What a shame to be so distracted from the surroundings by the pressing issues at hand. Perhaps I am in the wrong job…?

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But back to the point: it was also a constructive meeting, at which the LSC acknowledged the force in arguments for a graduated fee system for advocacy based upon the existing system and struggled to dampen the incredulity arising from the revelation that the LSC’s admin costs are £113m. They said they valued the retention of expertise. When pressed they confirmed their timetable for the completion of the Ernst & Young market research (end Jun) with announcement of final decision in August (the time of least resistance).

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The All Party Parliamentary Committee on Children was due to meet later today and no doubt the key points raised at our meeting will be fed back to them. Further meetings in respect of family legal aid reform are proposed. Watch this space.

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