§ Lord Gainford
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have any plans to improve control of the Legal Aid Green Form scheme.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
The Green Form scheme is an important means of access to legal advice for people on low incomes. In 1993/94, over 1,600,000 people received help from the Green Form scheme. Over recent months, however, the Government and the Legal Aid Board have become increasingly concerned about the opportunities for abuse which exist in the scheme.
As a result, the Legal Aid Board has conducted an internal review of its systems for detecting fraud and abuse of the Green Form scheme, and has put in place a number of administrative changes designed to ensure mat suspect claims under the Green Form scheme are speedily detected and acted upon.
In addition, the Legal Aid Board has, with the Government's support, proposed a number of other changes to the Green Form scheme:
- (i) that there should be a new, more detailed, Green Form claims form to be used by solicitors who are not franchised by the Legal Aid Board;
- (ii) that a solicitor should be required to seek prior authority from the Legal Aid Board before giving advice under more than one Green Form to the same client within any period of 12 months;
- (iii) that the Legal Aid Board's powers for dealing with cases where fraud or breaches of the legal aid regulations are suspected should be clarified in regulations.
The Legal Aid Board is at present consulting the Law Society on the details of these changes. Subject to the outcome of that consultation, the necessary regulations 74WA to make these changes will be laid before Parliament as soon as possible.