Mackay backs civil shake-up backed

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Legal Correspondent

Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, has pledged to implement in full recommendations for the biggest shake-up of civil justice this century.

Two years ago he asked Lord Woolf, a Law Lord, to find ways to improve a creaking system which benefits few people other than lawyers. Lord Woolf has already said he wants fast-track courts for damages up to pounds 10,000. Cases would be brought to court within months, and limited to half a day's hearing. In all litigation, judges would become case-managers to make sure things move to strict timetables. Lord Woolf's final report is due this summer.

Ultimately the new, streamlined system will save money for clients and taxpayer alike, but Lord Mackay concedes there will be some initial costs. Many in the legal profession have expressed fears the Government would only pick the cost-free options from a list of proposals, or shelve the plan.

But Lord Mackay said in an interview with the Independent he was determined to press ahead: "I hope the Government will be able to pursue Lord Woolf's report very quickly." He did not intend to pick on the options which cost no money to bring in. "I think it will have to work as a system."

Legal aid row, Section Two