There was a series of press reports at the weekend, all setting out the government’s aim to introduce the civil legal aid residence test by the summer. This follows the Lord Chancellor’s win on its legality in the Court of Appeal, and is said to be being backed by the Prime Minister himself, in reaction to recent controversy about claims against British forces arising out of Iraq and other conflicts.
In a debate in Parliament this week the legal aid minister confirmed that the government does indeed intend to introduce the residence test. The LAA has told the representative bodies that it will come in by the summer. There won’t be a formal consultation on the draft regulations, but there is to be some consideration of how it will operate in practice. If the test has to be introduced at all, it is to be hoped that the burdensome checks proposed for all applicants for civil legal aid will have reduced from the last time the test was proposed.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Access to Justice Commission met for the first time this week as part of its attempt to devise a new legal aid policy. There’s an interesting blog from one of the members of the commission, the former Court of Appeal judge Sir Henry Brooke.
Finally, despite being forced to concede that it wrongly marked at least one bid, the LAA seems determined – or intends to appear so publicly – to press ahead with two tier criminal contracts. But in view of recent rumours that it might be about to back down, the Law Society has written to the minister seeking clarification.