HC Deb 08 July 2002 vol 388 cc776-7W
Ian Lucas

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what estimate he has made of the shortfall of legal aid solicitors in Wales, broken down by(a) subject and (b) county. [65498]

Ms Rosie Winterton

The Legal Services Commission contracts with both quality assured solicitors' firms and not-for-profit organisations to provide legal services which meet the identified priority needs for those services. The Commission is confident that there is sufficient provision in Wales, in all categories of law and in all counties. However, it is developing and improving coverage.

For civil legal aid contracts with solicitors' firms, the Commission allocates a defined number of cases in specified categories of law. In its contracts with not-for-profit organisations, the Commission allocates a defined number of caseworker hours in specified categories of law. The allocation of cases and time throughout 2001–02 exceeded the number of cases actually started. There is no evidence at present of a shortfall of civil legal aid providers in any category of law in Wales.

The Wales Regional Legal Services Committee is preparing a report on how well the Commission's civil contracts are currently meeting legal need. The report, which will be issued this autumn, will also identify any remaining priorities for new contracts in the next financial year.

For criminal defence work, the Commission has no evidence at present of any shortfall in the number of contracted solicitors' firms undertaking criminal defence work in Wales.