There has been further debate in the House of Lords on LASPO. Two further defeats for the Government brings the total to nine. The two most recent defeats concern asbestos disease cases which will now be exempt from the reforms to Conditional Fee Agreements.
The Bill now has to go back to the House of Commons for further debate and finalisation. It is possible that the Commons could overrule all of the amendments made in the Lords, claiming “over riding financial criteria”, however, the total savings made under this Bill only amount to £350m which is little more than pocket money in Government terms, so if this argument is used it may well be challenged.
This Parliamentary session ends in early May so the Bill needs to have been passed by then if it is to become law this year.
Once it does become law then the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has it’s work cut out to turn it into something which can operate in practice. There will need to be some consultation on the specification for forthcoming tender rounds and then the tenders themselves will need to be issued and processed.
In all, even to meet the extended deadline of April 2013, a lot of hard work remains to be done to push this through. With lobbying groups waiting for opportunities to challenge the legislation it isn’t going to be an easy ride for the Ministry of Justice or the LSC.
By Stephensons’ Chairwoman, Ann Harrison