Wednesday, 11 May 2011
LAG calls for a draft legal aid bill
LAG and the Law Society have today written a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke calling on the government to publish its proposals for the reform of legal aid as a draft bill to be scrutinised by a special joint committee of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Draft bills provide an opportunity for the public and special interest groups to give evidence on the impact of the proposals in them. In the letter to Kenneth Clarke, LAG and the Law Society point out that the government has received over 5,000 submissions on its proposals for legal aid and that the Justice Committee in its recent report argued that the proposals needed 'substantial further refinement'. LAG has calculated that the proposed cuts of £49m in social welfare law alone will cost the government £286.2m in extra spending on other public services.
The letter goes on to say: 'We also share the Justice Select Committee’s concerns over the definition of domestic violence. It both acts as a perverse incentive to make false claims and prevents women who are victims, but do not wish to pursue a complaint in the courts, from receiving legal aid for assistance with the legal issues surrounding a relationship breakdown.'
LAG and the Law Society are also concerned over the government's proposals on civil litigation. They argue in the letter that the government's plans to change the rules on paying for damages cases are 'unjust' and call for more research on the effects of the proposed changes.
LAG believes that what the government is proposing for legal aid will have a profound impact on the ability of many ordinary people to obtain legal advice and representation. Our recent research shows that 150,000 more people than the government's original estimate of 500,000, will miss out on being able to get help with housing, employment and other common civil legal problems. We believe a draft bill would give an opportunity for a proper consultation to take place on the plans for legal aid, as without this tens of thousands of people will be denied access to justice.
A copy of the full text of the letter is available at: http://www.lag.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=88856.
Image: Ministry of Justice