That is a simple economic fact of life”, the Legal Aid Minister, Jonathan Djanogly MP announced during a Westminster Hall debate on 15 September, citing both the rising number of barristers (12,000) and of higher court solicitor advocates (2,500).
In the discussion of “Criminal Bar (Public Funding)” initiated by Geoffrey Cox QC MP, Mr Djanogly stated as well that “a single fee for Crown Court cases covering litigation and advocacy would encourage greater efficiency between litigator and advocate”.
While sympathetic to the need to recognise and protect the diversity of the Bar “the numbers of black, minority ethnic and women barristers are affected by issues other than simply fees”.
He praised the efforts of Nick Green QC, Chairman of the Bar, for “travelling the length and breadth of England and Wales to explain to members of the Bar, face to face, why it is time for the Bar to prepare for change”; “the Bar Council is right to advocate change”. At the same time, “I want a level playing field so that barristers, other advocates and litigators can compete on an equal basis”.
Five MPs who have practised as solicitors or barristers in criminal law took part in the debate. Cox in particular pointed out that a single fee “alone could dramatically increase the ‘competitive imbalance’.”