Gove sidesteps legal aid U-turn speculation

Topics: Legal aid and access to justice,Government & politics

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  • Michael Gove

The justice secretary chose neither to rebut nor confirm speculation today that he is on the brink of abandoning a controversial new contracting regime for criminal legal aid.

Answering justice questions in the House of Commons this morning, Michael Gove (pictured) was asked by Labour's shadow minister for human rights Andy Slaughter to confirm press reports that he was about to abandon new contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations.

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Gove replied: ‘As far as criminal legal aid contracts go, it has been the case that we have had to reduce the spend on criminal legal aid in order to deal with the deficit that we inherited from the last government. But it is also the case that we maintain more generous legal aid in this country than any other comparable jurisdiction.’   

Both the Law Society and shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer have called for a public statement to clarify the future of the new contracting system, currently bogged down in challenges to the procurement process.

A judicial review, sought by the Fair Crime Contracts Alliance, is set to open on 7 April and is expected to last seven days. A hearing into more than 100 individual procurement law challenges will begin on 3 May and is expected to finish on 16 May.

 

Readers' comments (21)

  • Mr Gove may just have well simply said "No Comment" and saved his misuse of the 'air'.

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  • But will adverse inferences be drawn from his exercising his right to silence?

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  • He clearly wants to avoid the embarrassment of a denial if it turns out the duty contracts have to be scrapped .

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  • So there you have it .U-turn it is.What a complete and utter shambles!

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  • Tough on competency, tough on the causes of competency.

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  • As the courageous solicitors involved in the consolidated cases have shown, a robust approach reaps dividends. Polite rational emails or letters with this dogmatic administration achieves little.

    Clever campaigning perhaps in concert with AJAG is perhaps what is now required

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  • So the lack of clarity which has existed since 2013 continues. Much is made of the firms who didn't get a contract. What about those that did? What about the investment that countless Firms (winners and losers) made by way of technology, recruitment, redundancy, in order to secure a Contract(s). My Company won the one we applied for. Does the Minister of Justice have any idea of the human, as well as financial cost, small Companies like mine have invested in over the last three years? I know not whether the LAA / MOJ lawyers have addressed their minds to the potential damages actions that could well follow in their hundreds if this descends into a farce that Brian Rix would have been proud of. A U-turn would be greeted by many as a welcome relief but as night follows day it wouldn't take long for some of the big providers who have made an expensive investment to say 'who is going to foot the bill'?
    My instinct is that potential litigation may well change it's face a little like a Doctor Who metamorphis. The applicants for relief may grow substantially but the target culprits will remain the same.

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  • The courageous solicitors were those who didn't bid.
    The issue highlighted by the tender process is that BFG has too much sway and those firms who are outside BFG should cooperate to campaign for access to justice and protect the public and our profession from BFG's version of reform.

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  • Hotep Thomas: "No comment" is the type of answer you give once you've received advice from a duty solicitor at a police station....!

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  • If the contracts and this procurement process are scrapped then Mr Gove should resign.

    How much has the contracting process cost the nation? That loss falls on his shoulders squarely, no matter how predictable this most likely of outcomes has always been.

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