§ Lord Avebury
asked Her Majesty's Government:
In light of the letter of 6 February from the Legal Services Commission to practitioners, enclosing the immigration specification that imposes financial thresholds on asylum and immigration legal aid with effect from 1 May, how many practitioners have stopped undertaking legal aid work; and how many will undertake work on behalf of the detainees in Lindholme. [HL2414]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin)
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has issued new contracts for solicitors' firms and not-for-profit organisations carrying out civil legal aid work from 1 April 2004. This coincides with the implementation 119WA of our proposals on immigration and asylum legal aid announced on 27 November 2003 (I refer the noble Lord to the Answer given by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, Lords Hansard col. WA 2). The LSC is not yet in a position to give final figures on contracts from April 2004, as some decisions are subject to appeal, or acceptable audit results. However, provisional figures indicate that there will, overall, be 100 fewer immigration contracts than last year. This reduction is almost entirely due to the fact that the number of asylum seekers has halved and as such reduced the need for legal services. The LSC has also sought to reduce the significant numbers of poor quality solicitors' firms undertaking this work. We are confident that there is sufficient supply to meet current levels of demand for legally aided immigration and asylum advice both nationally and at Lindholme.
There are 19 solicitors' offices and four not-for-profit organisations with immigration contracts in the LSC's Yorkshire and Humberside region where Lindholme is located.