the subject of the provision of criminal legal aid work, price
competitive tendering or the awarding of a legal aid contract to
provide criminal legal aid services. If so;
What were the meetings about? When did the meetings take place?
What was discussed at the meetings?
Please provide minutes of the meetings.
Your request has been passed to me because I have responsibility for answering requests which relate to legal aid policy.
Your request is being handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice holds some of the information that you have asked for. However, because the cost of complying with your request would exceed the limit set by the Freedom of Information Act, on this occasion I'm afraid I will not be able to take your request any further.
The law allows us to decline to answer FOI requests when we estimate it would cost us more than £600 (equivalent to 3½ working days’ worth of work, calculated at £25 per hour) to identify, locate, extract, and then provide the information that has been asked for.
In this instance, to answer your request we would need to try and determine whether our ministerial team, which currently comprises of five Ministers, and policy officials now and in the past met with 'Eddie Stobart, Stobart Barristers, G4S, Serco, Tesco, Co-op or any other Alternative Business Structure’ (of which there are over 180 but we do not keep a central record) and whether they hold information in relation to your request. We would need to conduct an extensive search of Ministers’ diaries. We would also be required to search the diaries of former members of the ministerial team (i.e. those in office prior to the September reshuffle), as information relating to your request may not only have arisen recently as a result of the recent consultation and other announcements.
We would also need to contact the relevant policy officials, and request that they locate manual records in various locations and examine each record to identify whether it contained relevant documents relating to your request. It is estimated that for one year, there would be over 2,500 files that would need to be located and examined. The estimated total time needed to carry this out would be over 625 hours which would thus exceed the £600 cost limit.
You can find out more about Section 12 by reading the extract from the Act and some guidance points we consider when applying this exemption, attached at the end of this letter.
Outside the scope of the Act, some information that relates to your request and is readily available is the recently published consultation on ‘Transforming Legal Aid.’ You can access the consultation which closed on 4th June, via the following link:
https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid We are currently considering responses to the 'Transforming Legal Aid' consultation, and no final decisions have yet been made.
In addition, all ministerial meetings with external organisations are subject to quarterly transparency returns, published online. You can access all MoJ publications from January 2012 until the present through the following links:
January - March 2012 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/returns-for-january-march-2012
April - June 2012 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/returns-for-april-june-2012
July - September 2012 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/returns-for-july-september-2012
October - December 2012 - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/returns-for-october-december-2012
Meetings for the period between January and March 2013 will be published in due course.
You can also find more information by reading the full text of the Act, available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/section/12 and further guidance http://www.justice.gov.uk/information-access-rights/foi-guidance-for-practitioners/exemptions-guidance
Although we cannot answer your request at this time, we might be able to answer a refined request within the cost limit. You may wish to consider, for example, requesting the information for a specific date, or in terms of your interest, information relating to consultation with a specific organisation. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee at this stage that a refined request will fall within the FOIA cost limit.
I am sorry that on this occasion I have not been able to answer your request. You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details can be found in the ‘How to Appeal’ section attached at the end of this letter.
You can also view information that the Ministry of Justice has disclosed in response to previous Freedom of Information requests. Responses are anonymised and published on our on-line disclosure log which can be found on the MoJ website: