News In Focus
MacAskill maintains position on legal aid contributions
26 October 2012
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill maintained his position on requiring solicitors to collect client contributions in summary criminal legal aid cases as the bill to provide for contributions passed stage 1 in the Scottish Parliament yesterday.
Moving the bill, Mr MacAskil said he appreciated the anxiety felt by some criminal law firms about collecting contributions, but added: "collecting fees from clients is a routine part of business for most law firms, so I suggest the responsibility is not new".
He did not believe there was a serious risk that those who failed to pay their contribution would lose their representation, and claimed that experience in England & Wales showed that most people had only a small contribution and most of them paid it.
On the level of contributions, he defended the proposed £68 a week income threshold, pointing out that it related to disposable income after deduction of allowable living costs.
Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame restated her committee's concerns expressed in its report on the bill, on these and other areas where it had asked ministers to take a further look at the matter, a matter taken up by others such as Labour's Lewis Macdonald who said it was only on the basis that possible unintended consequences would be considered carefully at the next stage, that Labour would support the general principles of the bill. David McLetchie for the Conservatives made a similar intervention, and Alison McInnes for the Liberal Democrats hoped that the Government "will reflect on the many concerns that members have raised today".
The general principles of the bill were approved without a vote.
Click here for the official report of the debate.