…but forges ahead with block contract advice plans

LEGAL aid solicitors have reacted with shock to Lord Irvine's announcement last week that he wants to replace the existing green form advice and assistance pilots with an exclusive contracting scheme by the end of 1999.

No research has been published from the two pilots now operating for private firms and voluntary organisations, but Lord Irvine has given the Legal Aid Board (LAB) until the end of February to issue a consultation paper, with the final plan submitted by May. The 13 Regional Legal Services Committees which have just been set up by the LAB will determine the need for each area.

Legal Aid Practitioners Group vice-chair Richard Miller said: 'Why spend money and time on a pilot for solicitors then prejudge the outcome while it's in its first phase and discard it?'