THE LORD Chancellor has rapped the Legal Aid Board (LAB) over the knuckles for pre-empting his plans for legal aid reform.
Lord Mackay wrote to Law Society President Charles Elly to stress his concern over a board advertisement which assumed block contracts would be introduced.
Richard Collins, planning manager, originally said the board would not re-word the advertisement, given the chance. But LAB chief executive Steve Orchard, having seen the Lord Chancellor's response, says: “Naturally we would change the wording.”
The advertisements, which appeared in both the national and legal press, caught the eye of Elly who questioned the Lord Chancellor's commitment to a proper consultation exercise.
The president, who once described the board as the Lord Chancellor's poodle, says the LAB has endangered its political neutrality by acting as a cheerleader for controversial ministerial ideas.
But in reply, Lord Mackay says: “I agree with you that the wording of the Legal Aid Board's advertisements suggests that decisions have been taken on matters which, in fact, still need to be discussed.” A copy of the letter was sent to board chair John Pitts.