Immigration firms get block contracts to redress shortfall

The Government is planning short-term legal aid block contracts to immigration firms to make up a shortfall in the sector.

Under proposals in the Access to Justice Bill, only firms which currently have a legal aid franchise will be awarded a block contract.

But more than 80 per cent of immigration work is carried out by firms without a franchise, according to Legal Aid Board statistics.

This week, government minister Lord Falconer told the House of Lords committee examining the Bill: “It is the intention of the LAB to offer short-term contracts to help firms get up to a standard where they can get a franchise to deal with immigration problems.

“We are aware of that problem and seek to deal with it as urgently as possible.”

The LAB has always stated immigration required a different approach in implementing change.

According to figures released in April last year, 90 per cent of legal aid money on immigration goes to London firms, while four per cent goes to Birmingham. The rest is divided up between Britain's other major cities.

The LAB claims “there may be significant need in areas outside London which is not being addressed”.

Lord Falconer says the Government is now promising “second-tier'' contracts with experts who can give support to lawyers without immigration law knowledge.