Sun, sand, cocktails and rein faire, comme un bête is not a bad way to live. At least for two weeks – then I start getting all introspective and my capacity for anything resembling thought disintegrates. So, back to the grey, damp delights of London.
On the other end of the scale of time, both quantitative and qualitatively measured, are the legal aid ‘reforms’. While I was away, the Law Society was at least partially successful in its Judicial Review of the revised contract, resulting in:
‘A declaration that the rights of the LSC to amend the Unified Contract referred to in clause 13.1 of that contract (other than amendments permitted under clause 13.2) are incompatible with regulations 9(2), 9(4) and 9(7) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 in so far as they are applicable to technical specifications (as defined in regulation 9(1) of those Regulations).’
As this suggests, the central issue was the LSC’s unilateral power to amend the contract, precisely the power that was to be used to introduce much of the reforms – although it is unclear how far this will affect the introduction of new fees, scheduled for October, The LSC has said it will steam ahead, whether the appeal of the JR has been heard or not. The Law Society, in a letter to Jack Straw (PDF) suggests it will be illegal, on the basis of the Judge’s comments that any changes to the contract terms should be restricted to those envisaged in the White Paper and because the changes would be likely to breach Regulation 4 of EU regs on contractual transparency.
Phew. At first sight this looks like a major set back for the LSC, assuming that the appeal is not successful. After all, the ability to vary the contractual terms was the central mechanism for the LSC to move to flat rate then tendering within the unified contract.
However, I’m going to reserve judgment.
First, the White Paper is very general. In that respect, it leaves the LSC a lot of wiggle room in arguing that a specific change was envisaged or proposed in the Paper. Cue extended legal wrangling, as, given the LSC’s track record, they will carry on regardless.
Second, the Unified Contract is only the delivery mechanism for the changes. Even if the LSC is reduced to abandoning the Unified Contract as a delivery mechanism, the substance of the proposed reforms remains and a new mechanics of implementation could well be found, albeit hastily. In this regard, little has been won but time. Again, the LSC’s track record does not encourage the view that time will enable reflection on its part, but it would enable further campaigning to take place, at least.