Over the last two weeks, the legal aid bill has been through report stage in the House of Lords. With only third reading to go, where are we now?
See our posts from last summer setting out the detail as originally proposed.
There have been some government concessions in the months since, with more during the course of report stage:
- Bringing immigration domestic violence cases back into scope
- Bringing illegal eviction claims back into scope and expanding the range of counterclaims allowed in possession proceedings
- Extending legal aid for special educational needs cases to clients aged up to 25
- Removing the power to means test for police station advice
- Amending the definition of domestic violence as a pre-requisite for private law family legal aid
- Allowing legal aid for clinical negligence at or shortly after birth
- Giving the Lord Chancellor power to extend the scope of the legal aid scheme by order
- Making legal aid available for domestic as well as international child abduction
- Allowing employment claims by trafficking victims against those who have exploited them
- Removing community care from the telephone gateway
The government have also lost votes on the following issues:
- Requiring the Lord Chancellor to secure access to justice
- Making legal aid available to victims of domestic violence
- Ensuring the independence of the Director of Legal Aid Casework (the replacement for the LSC)
- Retaining legal aid for welfare benefits reviews, appeals and onward appeals
- Funding expert reports in clinical negligence cases
- Requiring the Lord Chancellor to ensure the availability of face to face advice (removing the power to create a mandatory telephone gateway)
So what happens now? The concessions are definite. The government already have, or have undertaken to, amended the bill. But the lost votes could still be overturned, as they have to be approved by the House of Commons. See the LAG blog for a discussion of whether “financial privilege” (the mechanism that allowed the government to overturn Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill) could be used on legal aid – the final shape of the legal aid bill is still not settled.