100 Law Firms Milking Legal Aid in Asylum Seeker Cases

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Byline: JANE MERRICK

A HUNDRED law firms in London are milking the legal aid system by over-claiming on behalf of asylum seekers, ministers admitted last night.

A 'flood' of solicitors have cashed in on the huge increase of asylum claims to the UK since Labour came to power, Constitutional Affairs minister David Lammy admitted to a committee of MPs.

One hundred out of 372 companies in London who specialise in asylum applications are classed by the Legal Services Commission as 'poor quality' and risk having their legal aid contracts rescinded because of wasting taxpayers' money on hopeless cases.

These firms were 'undermining' the legal aid system, Mr Lammy said during evidence to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee.

The Government is planning legislation to crack down on the amount of legal aid available to asylum seekers. It intends to cap the number of hours of legal advice an asylum seeker receives for free to five hours.

Other measures include giving each asylum seeker a number amid fears that some are taking advice from more than one firm.

The legal aid bill for asylum cases has shot up from [pounds sterling] 74million to [pounds sterling]181million over the last three years. Each initial asylum application costs the taxpayer [pounds sterling]900 in legal aid.

Tony Blair, in his speech to his party's conference last month, underlined his intent to crack down on the 'legal aid gravy train'. …