Below is a short summary of comments made by Chris Grayling.
We are seeking views on PCT at present. LAA figures are available.
No intention of ending up with a legal aid market dominated by small number of firms.
There will be a quality threshold to ensure advocacy and litigation at a level we expect.
We will ensure that criminals are getting a proper defence – affordability and quality are required but we need a balance between the two.
Criminal fees will be streamlined, I have told barristers and solicitors that this is a consultation. We are challenged financially.
It is put to Grayling that access to justice will be at an end. He responds “we have no intention of awarding contracts on price alone”.
LAA has discretionary funding to deal with unexpected cases, but immigrants should be here for a period of time before accessing funds.
RE today’s report that 70% of the public believe proposals will lead to innocent people being convicted, he is asked “do you think miscarriages of justice are a price worth paying for your position?” – He responds: “You don’t understand what we have to do to balance the books.”
MP from Newcastle refers again to today’s report re legal aid fears. She asks him to meet with her to discuss matters as she believe that this will increase costs to the taxpayers. Grayling: “I have already met lawyers and I will be listening to all representations I receive. We cannot avoid difficult financial decisions, best balance between justice and price to taxpayers.”
When questioned re choice of solicitor and a bid from corporations such as Stobarts – he says that the comment is “what I would expect from Labour”. He continues – this is about firms considering how they will adapt and we need better value for money for the taxpayer, it is not about large corporations. Grayling also states “I know which route I’m taking” in relation to saving money.
Asked re Law Society Gazette interview – it is put to Grayling that he has no support, injustices and no choice of solicitor – Grayling says he stands by the interview, “we are 3 years into this govt, we have financial issues to deal with, we need to create a system that is affordable”.
It is put to him that choice of solicitor at threat to vulnerable and those who cannot afford to pay -he responds “vulnerable people will not have their legal aid removed… unless they have sufficient means to pay for it themselves.”
He is asked what impact assessment he has made towards miscarriages of justice? He side steps the issues and says “Proposals will deliver a proper balance.”
Most significant comment, in my opinion – “No change is simply not an option”.
I had to switch off after all that.