Legal Aid

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is currently being debated and amended in the House of Lords.

The Government has cut the Ministry of Justice budget by 23 percent. These cuts to social welfare legal aid will leave the most vulnerable without any legal support when things go wrong. The Government intends to remove support for social welfare legal aid and advice centres, which amongst other things, provide representation for those with problems involving education, employment, welfare benefits, debt matters, other housing matters and clinical negligence.

The Government should rethink these proposals. I believe that the reforms do not even make financial sense as social welfare legal aid actually saves money. By intervening early we avoid crises developing later which could incur greater costs.

In addition, the Government’s definition of domestic violence for the purpose of getting Legal Aid for divorce, custody or ancillary relief is overly restrictive and does not reflect guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Many amendments have already been tabled on the different aspects of the bill. Labour MPs put pressure on the Justice Secretary to widen the definition of domestic violence and this was changed on the second reading of the bill.

Many of you asked me to raise the particular concern with the Bill regarding claimants alleging human rights abuses by UK multinational companies. Last year I wrote to Jonathan Djanogly, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice to raise these issues. I have now received a reply from the minister on this issue.

(Please see the response below)

I am aware that the bill will soon be returning to the House of Commons from the House of Lords. I will continue along with my colleagues to oppose these proposals which will have such a negative impact on legal aid.

If you wish to receive a hard copy of this response please contact me