Past policy work
PLP is uniquely placed to respond to policy initiatives and consultations due to the breadth and depth of our understanding of public law issues.
PLP’s policy work has included a response to the consultation paper reviewing financial conditions for legal aid (1991) and a submission to the Lord Chancellor’s Department’s fundamental review of expenditure on legal services (1994). In 1997 we prepared a submission to the Middleton Review on Civil Justice and legal aid on behalf of the Public Interest Law Group, a group of voluntary sector legal organisations concerned to see provisions made to improve access to justice for those bringing or supporting proceedings in the public interest.
In the run up to the Access to Justice Act 1999, we proposed that public law should be a separate category alongside others such as housing, and this proposal was accepted. This has resulted in a greater awareness of public law as a specialism and has undoubtedly resulted in an increase in access to this area of the law. PLP also proposed a ring-fenced Public Interest Fund and although this was eventually rejected, the Legal Services Commission agreed that such cases should be given a degree of priority.
In 2004, PLP was instrumental in organising discussions and drafting a joint response from public law practitioners to the Legal Services Commission consultation paper ‘New Focus for Civil Legal Aid’. The document attracted 66 signatures from leading public law practitioners and was widely quoted in other responses submitted to the LSC. We have also responded to the current consultation document, 'Making Legal Rights a Reality', which concerns the future of civil legal aid. Our response can be viewed here.
PLP has played a major role in the development of the Commission’s Specialist Support Service, and has been involved as a provider of specialist advice since the service started as a pilot in 2000. Our response to the Commission’s current ‘Top Slice Review’ of the Service can be viewed here.
Over the last year, PLP has become aware of increasing delays in the consideration of cases in the Administrative Court. The delays appear to arise at every stage, from the initial consideration of the papers, to oral permission applications and through to the listing of substantive cases. These delays are causing real and significant problems for Claimants, many of whom are either effectively being denied remedies, or are being put in a situation where they are suffering serious detriment.
As a first step in trying to tackle this situation, we sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act for more information about the nature of the delays that are occurring, the causes of those delays and what steps HM Courts Service is taking to address the problem. Their response is available to download here. The original request letter sent by PLP is available to download here. In December 2007 PLP instructed solicitors to issue a letter before claim to the Administrative Court.
Responses to consultation papers:
Donaldson LJ in Parr v Wyre BC  HLR 71 at 80
The citizenry of this country ought to appreciate better that [judicial review in the Administrative] Court... provides a means of obtaining speedy assistance if they think they are oppressed by authority or that they are failing to receive the assistance which parliament has required authorities to afford them."