Section 149: Community Legal Service: pilot schemes
669.The creation of the Community Legal Service (CLS) was part of the Government’s fundamental reform of the legal aid system, as set out in the Access to Justice Act 1999.
670.The purpose of the CLS is to ensure that individuals who qualify financially and have reasonable grounds for bringing or being part of any action, can receive publicly funded legal assistance in civil matters that are within scope of the civil scheme.
671.The Legal Services Commission (LSC) was created under the Access to Justice Act 1999, and has responsibility for administering the CLS Fund, and setting priorities about the types of services that may be funded; or for carrying out any changes to funding priorities that the Lord Chancellor directs are necessary.
672.The services that may be funded through the CLS Fund are set out in the Funding Code, which also sets out the criteria according to which the LSC decides whether or not to fund services.
673.As the LSC continuously monitors, reviews and enhances the services being provided through the CLS, it will occasionally need to explore or pilot new ways of delivering specialist services so that the costs and benefits can be judged in practice. Section 18A of the Access to Justice Act 1999 (inserted by section 58 of the 2008 Act) contains a power to pilot schemes in relation to the Criminal Defence Service (CDS), but at present there is no express power to pilot civil schemes under the CLS within the Act.
674.Section 149 amends the Access to Justice Act 1999 to give express power to pilot schemes as part of the CLS. Section 6(8) of the Access to Justice Act 1999 empowers the Lord Chancellor to direct or authorise the LSC to fund the provision of particular types of legal services in specified circumstances. Subsection (2) of the section inserts new subsections (8A) and (8B) into section 6 of the 1999 Act to make it clear that the circumstances specified in a direction or authorisation may relate to particular areas or courts and that a direction or authorisation may require or authorise the LSC to fund the provision of certain types of legal service only for particular classes or selections of people.
675.Subsection (3) inserts a new section 8A into the Access to Justice Act 1999. New section 8A will enable the Funding Code to contain provisions (“pilot provisions”) which are to have effect for period not exceeding three years. The pilot provisions of the Funding Code will be capable of having a limited application; for example the pilot provisions may apply only in relation to a particular area specified in the Code or only in relation to particular classes of person specified in the Code. At the end of the three-year pilot period the LSC will be able to decide whether to amend the Funding Code so that the pilot provisions have a more general application.
676.Subsection (4) makes a consequential amendment to section 9(5) of the Access to Justice Act 1999. The effect of the amendment is that a revised version of the Funding Code which contains changes made in pursuance of new section 8A will not come into force until it has been approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
677.Subsection (5) inserts a new section 11A into the Access to Justice Act 1999. The effect of new section 11A is that subordinate legislation made under the 1999 Act in relation to the CLS will be capable of having a limited application. For example, it will be possible to make subordinate legislation in relation to the CLS that applies only in relation to a particular area or only in relation to a particular description of court. New section 11A specifies that the length of subordinate legislation made in pursuance of the new section is limited to three years. The Lord Chancellor may extend this period to cover any gap between the end of the pilot and extending the pilot more generally.
678.Subsection (6) amends section 25 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 to provide for the parliamentary procedure for delegated legislation containing pilot schemes.