Warning on legal aid rationing

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The Independent Online
Legal aid cases will be turned down for purely budgetary reasons if demand is higher than expected under the Government's planned new scheme, Gary Streeter, parliamentary secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, made plain yesterday.

Confirmation that the proposed reforms, which would introduce fixed budgets for the first time, envisage rationing of services came as the minister warned solicitors at a legal aid conference in Cardiff not to "sacrifice the opportunity to influence change by trying to resist the inevitable, as happened with conveyancing in the 1980s".

The White Paper setting out the planned changes proposes a new test of whether a case "deserves a share of public funds available".

Mr Streeter said: "It must be possible to turn away less important cases if demand is higher than expected, while making sure that some resources are always available to meet priority needs." Patricia Wynn Davies