Passing the initiative test

Your editorial in The Lawyer, 25 November asserts that the Law Society has never "taken the initiative on legal aid matters". In May 1995, we published a consultation paper, Design for the Future, putting forward a raft of proposals to make legal aid more cost effective and efficient. Later that year we published Better Value Better Justice containing further suggestions about improving value for money for legal aid and our response in September 1996 to the Government's Green Paper on legal aid set out our views about how to improve legal aid. Indeed, many of our proposals, such as improving the merits test and closing loopholes to prevent the apparently wealthy getting legal aid, have been discussed and in some cases adopted by the Government. We strongly disagreed with the previous government's proposals to cash-limit legal aid, but we recognised that legal aid needs improving. We have made numerous constructive proposals over the years, with the aim of making legal aid deliver a better, more cost-effective service while preserving the aim of maintaining and increasing access to justice, without resorting to arbitrary cost cutting.

Karen Mackay

Head, Legal Aid Policy

The Law Society

London WC2.